peter lovenheimpeter lovenheimpeter lovenheim

My sister, Jane L. Glazer, and her husband, Larry Glazer, died together on Friday, September 5, 2014. Their private plane, after an apparent loss of oxygen in the cabin, flew on autopilot for four hours before crashing into the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Jamaica. They were both 68 years old and had been married for 47 years. This is the eulogy I delivered at their Memorial Service held on September 16, 2014 at Temple B'rith Kodesh in Rochester, New York.

Eulogy for My Sister, Jane L. Glazer

(September 16, 2014)

Before my sister was Jane Glazer, she was known pretty much by everyone as Janie Lovenheim. To my brother, Bob, she was, by three years, his younger sister. And to me she was, by seven years, my big sister.

As the big sister, she played with me, babysat , and read me books. Our favorite was Ludwig Bemelmans's, "Madeline." We read it so often we both could recite the beginning by heart: "In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines/Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines....the smallest one was Madeline."

There always remained, in terms of Jane's relationship with me, a little of that mothering big sister, and I'll miss that, but I'm also glad that over the years our relationship matured into a deep friendship. And it was as friends that Jane called me just last month and said, "Let's take a road trip." She wanted to see some theatre. Jane loved seeing shows but if she went with Larry, she told me, he almost always fell asleep. So, my assignment was to find a place for us to go, and she'd drive.

I picked the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario. I bought tickets for two shows, reserved two hotel rooms, and on the morning of August 13, Jane picked me up, and we were on our way.

Taking a road trip with Jane sparked a lot of memories. This past spring we drove together to Pennsylvania to visit my brother, Bob, and his wife, Chris, in their new home—and that turned out to be a great trip—but prior to that, we actually hadn't been on a road trip together since 1960 when our family drove to California. Bob was then 17, Jane 14, and I was 7. The three of us all sat in the back seat and I can't remember anymore if it was I who sat in the middle to keep Bob and Jane from fighting or if it was Jane who sat in the middle to separate Bob and me. One thing I do remember, though, is that, to help keep me occupied, Jane—foreshadowing her first career as a math teacher—wrote out whole pages of arithmetic problems for me to do. That certainly made the trip educational, although maybe not in the way our parents had planned, because while outside our car the majestic Gran Tetons rolled by, inside I was missing most of the scenery while doing long division.

I'm sure in those days when we were all young, our Dad, Andy Lovenheim, a successful businessman who grew up with traditional ideas about gender roles, hoped that one day one of his sons would follow him in business. The joke we tell in the family is that one of his sons did, and his name was Jane.

My brother became a film producer and I became a writer, but it was Jane, ultimately, who followed our dad in business. To understand how that happened—and to give some glimpses of who my sister really was—I'd like to share some scenes and memories from that trip with Jane last month to Stratford.

First was the border crossing at Niagara Falls. Jane lowered her window, the guard barked, "Nationality?" and Jane said, "Rochester, NY"—then quickly corrected herself : "USA." But maybe her first answer was correct. "Nationality" is about belonging to a group or place and, though she and Larry traveled widely, Rochester was where Jane was born, where she grew up—on Harvard Street and then in Brighton—and except for a handful of years during and after college, it's the place she lived and most loved.

Then there's that hotel I booked for us in Stratford. Turns out it looked a lot better online than in reality. They assigned us two rooms on the third floor and at check-in we each arbitrarily took a key. The first room we saw was Jane's and it was kind of shabby, but then when I looked at my room, well, it was also shabby but with a lot more square footage. I offered to switch. Jane wouldn't do it. Though she and Larry lived very well, material things and comforts were never what her life was about; there in the hotel, she accepted the luck of the draw without complaint and in her shabby, small room, she reported she slept well.

That first evening we saw a terrific production of the musical, "Man of La Mancha." The show imagines how Cervantes, the Spanish writer, defends himself before the Inquisition by staging a play about his fictional character, Don Quixote, and his quest for a life of honor, chivalry, and the "Impossible Dream."

My sister's life was a bit of an "impossible dream." When Jane was born, our mother had contracted polio and was limited in how she could care for an infant. She feared Jane might have the disease, too—she didn't—but sought to protect her by keeping her indoors and restricting vigorous activity. As a girl, Jane was petite, sometimes shy—and she came of age at a time when little was expected of young women and opportunities were limited. She first attended college in Columbus, Ohio at Ohio State University. And it was during her freshman year that Jane did develop what at first seemed a mysterious illness. She lost weight, became hyperactive, and couldn't concentrate. What she had, as it turned out, was a hyperactive thyroid. She left school, came home, and had surgery that resolved the illness. But this frightening experience, I believe, left Jane a stronger and more compassionate person—and prepared her to grasp opportunities that would later come her way.

Back at the theater, Jane and I sat next to each other and during the last thirty minutes of "Man of La Mancha," we both cried. Later, we talked about what had moved us. Yes, the story of Don Quixote and his quest was inspiring, but what we each found so affecting was the story of the dishonored tavern waitress, Aldonza, who Don Quixote, in his naive idealism, sees instead as the pure and honorable Lady Dulcinea, to whom he pledges his love and his life. Though her name is Aldonza, he insists on calling her Dulcinea. By the end of the show, when Quixote dies, Aldonza can finally see in herself what Quixote saw in her. She sets her life on a new path and in the last scene, when someone calls her Aldonza, she replies: "My name is Dulcinea."

Jane was very clear about this—that it was Larry, in this sense her Don Quixote—whose love and confidence had been transformative. His belief in her allowed her even to imagine being in business for herself. And then, through her own talent and hard work, she was able eventually to provide jobs for 100 families, to become president of the Jewish Community Center, to run the New York City Marathon at age 50, to help lead many other civic organizations, in short to become the Jane Glazer whom this community mourns today.

Larry, her Don Quixote; she, his Dulcinea.

In Stratford the next day, Jane and I rose early and took a morning walk along the river. My sister expressed an almost child-like curiosity about everything: the white swans (where do they go in the winter?), the Canadians we met (why are they all so polite and friendly?), the architecture of the riverfront homes (are these vacation homes or do people really live in this beautiful place all year?), and especially the public gardens—she knew the names of dozens of flowers and bushes, took pictures to show Larry, and lamented that at home we don't spend nearly as much to beautify public spaces.

During that walk, we discovered a public pool. Knowing that swimming is my regular exercise, she encouraged me to use it. Later, while I swam, she sat nearby under a tree on a bench, knitting and then reading a book. This was that mothering side of Jane, watching her younger brother while he swam. I liked that.

That afternoon, we saw the second of our two shows, Shakespeare's great tragedy, "King Lear." Jane wasn't familiar with the play and during the first act we both had to strain to get used to the Shakespearian language. The story tells of the aging Lear who has decided to turn over one-third of his kingdom to each of his three daughters, until one of them—as he sees it—disrespects him. Furious, Lear banishes her, triggering a sequence of events that ends not only in Lear's personal ruin and death, but in the collapse of the entire Kingdom.

When the lights came on, Jane again was crying. Her first comment was, "This makes 'Man of La Mancha' seem like a comedy." As we left the theatre and discussed the show, Jane cut through a lot of the sub-plots and, borrowing modern phrasing, nailed the play's theme: "It's all about estate planning," she said. She shared how she and Larry—I think it was at that moment we re-titled the play, "King Lar"—had in recent months been working to craft an estate plan for themselves. They were working through a difficult range of options to balance concerns for their children, for their employees, and for the community. In the most direct way possible, Shakespeare's 400 year-old tragedy had touched my sister in her role as mother, employer, and philanthropist.

Before we left Stratford that afternoon, we did a little shopping. Jane found a pair of shoes, black with medium heels, which she said would be perfect for the fall. I said I'd enjoy seeing them on her and she said she'd wear them at Rosh Hashanah services—here at Temple—in September. We'd sit together, as we had last year.

On the ride home, Jane gave me a new assignment: find a place all three of us—Bob, she, and I—can go together on the next trip, maybe this coming fall or winter.

Soon after our return to Rochester, Jane and Larry went with their children and grandchildren to Family Camp at Camp Seneca Lake, where they'd met as teens. That circle was completed. Later, Jane e-mailed me: "Am back from two fabulous days at family camp. Everyone did great. My last road trip for summer."

In one of the final scenes of "King Lear," surveying all the loss that has befallen the kingdom, one of the characters observes, "The weight of this sad time we must obey;Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say." The problem is, in the face of such sadness, it's not only hard to know what to say; sometimes it's even hard to sort out what we feel.

I'm grateful beyond words that Jane and I took that trip to Stratford. I'm grateful Larry saw in my sister—his Dulcinea—the potential for the successful woman she became. I'm grateful for their children that—unlike Shakespeare's King Lear—their parents have been sensitive and wise about planning their legacy.

But I'm crushed that Jane and Bob and I will never take that next trip; that Jane, in her motherly way, will never again sit and watch me swim; and that at services next week she won't sit beside me and I'll never see her in those new shoes.

Jane, you were always my big sister, when I was little you nurtured me and protected me. When I became older and life got more complicated, you helped me sort things out and look on the bright side. When I was afraid, you helped me have courage. I thought as we grew old, we'd help take care of each other. I thought in the future, as in the past, you'd be there with me. And you will be, because who you were, and all you did, and how we loved each other, will stay with me forever.

When I was little, Jane used to read to me. Our favorite book was "Madeline." We knew the first lines by heart. But we also knew by heart the last lines. For Bob and myself, and with a little adjustment to the original, with those last lines, I'll close:

Good night, dear sister,
May you sleep well.
And God turned out the light
And closed the door.
And that's all there is,
There isn't any more.

©Peter Lovenheim, 2014

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