Eulogy for Sol Dorf - by Julie Dorf
12/22/02


Last night the nine grandchildren, our spouses, and our children got together to talk about our grandpa, to share stories, memories and feelings, and also to figure out who would speak today. In the true spirit of Grandpa Sol, we all wanted to give a speech. There is a lot to say. But today you'll hear from only four of us, from the youngest grandchild to the oldest, representing all three Dorf families, each of us attempting to honor different aspects of his life and the values that he imparted.

We all feel so blessed. Blessed by our family's fortunate history and our collective good health, but today we feel especially blessed for having had so many quality years with a grandfather who influenced us all-truly until the last day of his life; when he died with the same amazing grace and care that he lived his life with.

Sometimes when I talk about my childhood, I say that I grew up in the closest thing to a Jewish Shtetl that existed in the New World - right here in the suburbs of Milwaukee. The three Dorf families, plus our grandparents lived within walking distance of one another, and we shared all holidays, Jewish and secular, birthdays and anniversaries. In all of that family togetherness, my grandparents were at the center. My grandfather usually sat at the head of the table when we would gather for family meals, and often gave a speech. One of the many keys to his creating such a strongly bonded family was not even the content of those speeches, but in his style of family leadership. He showed us a full range of emotions - from sobs to anger -and instilled a sense of belonging to and with one another, and to our history, from that place at the head of the table.

One story that the grandchildren uncovered last night was the common advice that Grandpa had given many of us about never going to bed angry with your spouse. Undoubtedly the great love of my grandfather's life, was my grandmother. They were married sixty-nine years together and they are our standard for a passionate and successful marriage. Growing up, we witnessed their attentiveness and loyalty to one another, their playfulness, and their affection. My grandma always said that my grandfather was a true gentleman (even if he did take her to speakeasies when they were first dating). They met on the dance floor and they never stopped dancing together.

I got to experience a little bit of that charm that my Grandmother felt for the past 70+ years. Being the first female born to this family in over a generation (and one of only two from our generation), I was my grandfather's "special princess." And I did feel special when he would take me out to the dance floor.

Grandpa's natural wit lasted until his last breath. As we shared stories last night, we laughed at some of the amazingly funny final things that just rolled off his tongue that he said to each of us during his final weeks of life. My grandfather was not just funny, but he was fun. He certainly worked very hard in his life, but he knew how to enjoy people and life, creating fun moments to share-now memories- whether it was Shirley Temples and Chanukah bowling tournaments for our generation, or making up the dipsy-doodle softball pitch with our fathers as boys, he ensured that we enjoyed ourselves with him and with each other. I know that many of you here could share your own stories of friendship and fun with my grandfather because next to family, close friends were next in the line of importance. We all heard countless stories of my grandfather's two best childhood friends-Jonny Mulvany and Jonny Balasic. His friendships were numerous, long lasting, and crossed ethnic lines.

Grandpa's generosity with all of us financially and emotionally was touching, especially as it extended to our growing families. He never failed to ask us questions about the things and people that were important to us and he made each of our spouses feel welcomed and an integral part of the Dorf family. We will all miss him and we already feel his loss, but we also want to celebrate an extraordinary man. Grandpa's life was filled with many lessons for our generation, which we will undoubtedly continue to learn and re-learn in our remaining years. Those lessons came through, not because Grandpa would lecture, but through his stories and way that he lived his life. Thank you, Grandpa, for those gifts to all of us.

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