We’re here to day to mourn the passing but also to honor the life of Seymour Mondschein, beloved father and grandfather and friend. He was born in 1930 in Brooklyn, NY to Nathan and Sadie, Eastern European immigrants with an American dream. One of Nathan’s brothers, Sy’s Uncle Herman, lived in Sy’s room as a brother and was very close to him.
As a kid, Sy was sent to yeshiva in Borough Park. Studying Talmud and Jewish law were not exactly his passion, but Music was. Sy took $75 of his Bar Mitzvah money and bought a trumpet. That trumpet led him to many wonderful events in his life, such as his good friends Yehuda and Irving, playing in big bands in the Catskill Mountains and in clubs around New York. He briefly attended Julliard, but wanted to play more than he wanted to study. And at a place called the Airport Cafe in March of 1952, he was on the bandstand when a beautiful, dark haired dancer took the floor to do a mambo with her date. That dancer was Gloria. Sy’s heart stood still. So did Gloria’s. “My Heart Stood Still” became their song. It was love at first sight. They eloped on May 17th and then got married on June 28t. Their Jewish wedding followed after Mom’s sister-in-law spilled the beans about the elopement. They would take walks together hand-in-hand, or lay together on the sofa, one’s head resting on the other’s lap. They showed each other a lot of affection. They were best friends. Their marriage lasted 58 years, until Gloria’s death in 2010. At the end of Gloria’s life, and that last stage was very rough for everyone, Sy made sure that she got the very best care possible no matter what it took and he did superhuman things himself no matter the toll on him.
He loved his children Bineece
and Stacey, so very much.
He was so proud of his children and their relationships, of
Stacey and Robert
Linda and Warren
and Beneece and Barry
He was a wonderful grandfather to Danielle Nicole, Joshua Matthew, Nathan Zachary, Ava and Noah, and Isabelle. He loved all of them and he was proud of their accomplishments.
Sy worked in sales. He sold cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, and tried to run his own shampoo business. He eventually owned a successful custom shirt store of his own for 26 years, working 6 days a week, commuting from New Haven to NY. Gloria worked with him from home, managing the books. They spoke multiple times a day. The kids would address hundreds of envelopes and fold hundreds of letters when he needed to do his twice a year mailing with “swatches.”
Sy would use his 2 hour commuting time to read multiple newspapers, or, if there was something he thought the kids were doing wrong, he would use the time to write them one of his “yellow pad” letters. Later, he used to write his thoughts to his kids from time to time, in place of his yellow pad letters. He was always in their corner. When they were young, he would pick them up at all hours of the day or night. He always believed in them, and in the abilities and achievements of his daughters, sons-in-law, and 6 grandchildren.
On Saturday nights, after a day of work, he would put on his tux and run to his job playing music with some of his musician friends in the Arnold Most orchestra. Gloria always supported his playing out on Saturday nights, because she knew it was his passion. She would join him every New Year’s Eve.
As a child, Sy had gone to a place called Kerhonksen, NY in the summer, where he stayed on a farm. He spoke of that place often and with affection. He loved his dog Chickie, and he rode horses in Prospect Park. Sy enjoyed the outdoors and appreciated the details and the beauty of his surroundings wherever he went.
For years, he practiced meditation, exercised and ran for miles.
Sy was very kind. He was very generous. He had a great sense of humor.
He loved history, astronomy, theater, Latin jazz and photography. He would take pictures wherever he went, and when he could no longer travel, he would take pictures from his chair.
For years, he enjoyed using the computer, and reading financial and other newsletters.
Binnie says that her dad told her the date on which he was going to die. It was right before his birthday (which is June 27). Sy was contemplating giving up dialysis and looking into hospice. He wanted to be with Gloria. He somehow made it happen.
I want to read some of Stacey’s special memories:
Harmonizing with Dad in shul
Dad showing up in my office with a blueberry muffin and a candle on my birthday, and my doing the same for him on our wedding day, his birthday.
Working with Dad in his store and on shows
Dad seeing me off to my study abroad program with a gift of a first-edition (20 lb) walkman, so that I could record my journey
Taking Dad to see Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria at the Blue Note in NYC
Taking Dad and Mom boating, and up a mountain, in Maine
Dad with a gold shovel, breaking ground for the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, standing next to the Governor of Maine
Dad on his porch in Florida with the kids, enjoying all the ducks and other birds outside
There is so much more.
How do you sum up a life? He was a wonderful father. It was a privilege to be his daughter.
That’s from Stacey
THIS IS FROM BINNIE
My dad taught me how to drive. First time out I drove us into a mailbox.
My dad had many jobs. When he used to bottle shampoo, I couldn’t wait to go with him. Even though the machines were too big for me, I would help bottle shampoo. I was lucky if it was in the bottle.
He loved his grandchildren and was so happy when Danielle became a dentist. He would print up pictures with silly comments about teeth.
He was an amazing musician. I used to sit and listen to philharmonic on TV and he was always excited to share his love of music with me and then my son Josh.
When Josh told me he heard concert music in his head and I spoke with my dad. He told me he has heard music and operas his whole life. What a wonderful gift to share.
When my dad designed men’s custom shirts for stars and then on Broadway, I was always excited to hear his stories. But he never was starstruck. I would be in awe and he just got to know stars, big and small. He even created a costume for THING from the Addams family.
Lastly my dad had an undying love for my mom. And when I spoke to him I told him that mom has a birthday cake waiting for him 6/27. And they will dance on their wedding anniversary 6/28. My dad is now in the arms of his LOVE. And it will be for eternity
I remember that when Seymour came home late, Gloria and he would still have dinner together. She would tell the kids to “Give your dad a kiss” when he walked in the door.
So this funeral is like that kiss. And now they’ll have dinner together.
Sy was a righteous man. May he rest in peace. Let us say Amen.