Laurie celebrated her 65th birthday with a party she hosted at Mount Zion last Sunday, surrounded by many of her friends and family. We were treated to kind words from friend Tracie and music from the Guitar Corps, led by Renae, which was joined by nearly a dozen of the best choir voices our congregation has to offer.
Many from our congregation had a chance to meet much of her family. Laurie’s parents both grew up in Toronto, moving over the years from there to Madison, for her father’s PhD, then Chicago (Skokie), and on to Carbondale Illinois for many years, and finally to Saint Paul. All points along her father’s path from college, to research in Madison and Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital, to teaching on the faculty of Southern Illinois University, and finally, to the Twin Cities, to be near Laurie, her brother, nephew, and niece.
Laurie’s father earned his PhD from Madison in 1952 and became a prolific author and researcher, including such topics as the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation of DNA … words that I actually understand, I might add. At least more than I do medieval history.
Laurie not only knows a lot of people in and around Mount Zion, but she knows all our children and makes a point of asking about them each time we meet. It is clear that she has a passion for children, and for Mount Zion.
Can you tell me about your parents?
I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. My mom and dad are Miriam and Herbert. My dad is deceased, it will be three years this year, and my mom is still living in her home here, in Highland Park. I have two younger brothers, Mitchell, an attorney here in the Cities, and Kenny who is a doctor in California.
Where did your parents meet?
My parents were both born in Toronto, and they met there, and my father went to college there at the University of Toronto. Then he went to Madison and he got his PhD working at the Enzyme Institute.
Do you have any early family memories?
I remember my middle brother being a Bar Mitzvah at Beth Israel (Madison) synagogue, with Rabbi Fleischaker, and we had a very nice celebration in his honor. And I went to Hebrew School there.
And I remember my father would play football with my brothers, and he once took me to a football game. It was in Madison, at Camp Randall Stadium, I was maybe 11 or 12.
Do you remember that game?
Oh yes! I remember how well the Badgers played, and I liked the music, and I liked everybody standing up and cheering every time the Badgers scored a touchdown.
Do you still have family in Toronto?
I still have relatives on my mom’s side, and on my dad’s side. Once a year I go up there to visit, and I am pretty much involved with them. We keep in touch with email, Facebook, telephone calls.
What was your mother’s maiden name?
Perenson. Her father was in the fur business.
Do you know how you got your name?
I was named after my father’s mother, Leah. So my Hebrew name is Leah Esther.
And I know that you are retired, but what did you do while you were working?
I worked for Ramsey County Human Services for 30 years. And I will be retired a year this July. I did a lot of things, typing, filing, different projects. And I worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield prior to going to Ramsey County. And I have worked at the JCC teaching preschool kids.
Where did you go to school?
I graduated from Carbondale Community High School in 1969. Then I went to John A. Logan Junior College for a couple of years. Then I transferred to Southern Illinois, where I got my Bachelor of Science degree in child development, and then I started a master’s degree in child development, but I didn’t like the statistical part, so I didn’t continue with it.
How have you stayed active in retirement?
I am currently a volunteer first grade teacher at Randolph Heights Elementary School. I work with children who are behind and are special needs children. I am working with two children this year – Nathanial and Esperanza.
It’s a volunteer job, but I love every minute of it. Just being with my friend Nancy, the first grade teacher, and being with the children, reading to them, and seeing them grow and learn. I’ve been to a lot of their assemblies, and I went on one field trip, to the planetarium at Como.
And I know you do hobbies.
I do a lot of arts and craft; I’ve worked with picture hangars, bracelets, magnets, you name it, I’ve done it. And I do crewel work too, embroidery work.
When did you join Mount Zion?
I joined Mount Zion in 1986. I was married here at Mount Zion Temple years ago, but that didn’t work out.
And you have been active here as well?
I worked at the Sisterhood garage sale for a number of years. And I joined the adult choir, and Caring Community. Anything I can get my hands on.
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I had a chance to talk with younger brother Mitchell last weekend. As a middle brother myself, I couldn’t pass on the chance to hear and include some of his recollections of his older sister, Laurie.
What do you recall of your years growing up with Laurie?
Some of the oldest memories I have – way back when – kids didn’t have video games, so we played outside, or inside. And I remember Laurie getting a kitchen set, when she was 6 or 7, and we used to play house with it.
Were you good to her as brothers?
Sometimes we were better than others. We never got in any real trouble. All I know is that when she had her Sweet 16 birthday party … my Dad took us out of the house. We had to leave the house for a few hours.
Who was the cook in your family?
My mother is an excellent cook. Not only is she an excellent cook, but her presentation is fabulous. So not only did the food taste good, but the table always looked good. She never, never took a short cut.
And we had a kosher home. Most nights we had family dinners in the evening at the table in the eating area, when my father came home, but on Friday nights, on Shabbos and holidays, we got to eat in the dining room!
Tying in some of Tracie’s opening remarks last weekend:
Tracie: We are all gathered here today for a very special day, and a very special person. Our favorite person in the world, Laurie. And her big birthday. Not only is Laurie excited about turning 65, which is wonderful, but she’s a new Silver Sneakers at the JCC, and she’s got of lot of great things going on, and it’s all wonderful!
Laurie: Thank goodness!
Tracie: As I’ve always said, if you have Laurie as a friend, you’ve got a best friend forever.
And finally, following rousing choruses of Laurie’s favorite songs, including Yom Huledet Sameiach, Shehecheyanu, T’filat HaDerech and others.
Renae: We are going to end with Hinei Mah Tov, but just to let everybody know – Laurie retired, was it about a year ago?
Laurie: A year ago at the end of this month!
Renae: A year ago this month. And about three years before Laurie retired, she asked me if the Guitar Corps would play at her party, so we have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. How wonderful it is that we are all together, and Laurie thank you for including us in your special day. Our last song talks about how happy we are to all be here, and to be living together as one, and to be celebrating with you.
Laurie: Well it’s my pleasure!
And it’s been our pleasure to know Laurie, and to include her in our lives. She has a way of finding, and bringing out the best in all of us.