By Deb Silverthorn
Leonard Gorsky has had much to celebrate of late. The years have been good to him, all 100 of them as of Nov. 11, 2021. Along with those many candles on the cake, Gorsky celebrated 77 years of marriage on Nov. 5, since Nov. 5, 1944, to his beloved Millie.
“Sitting next to Millie was the best birthday present. People want the secret to long life and long marriage,” said Gorsky. “I believe in God. He’s been good to us. God and laughing every day.”
The Gorskys’ family tree, evidence of a long and beautiful life together, extends through their sons Bob and his wife Cami, and Richie and his wife Susan. Their daughters-in-law “couldn’t be more of our own,” Gorsky said, and their grandchildren, Sarah (Zachary) King, Michael Gorsky, Rachel Gorsky and David Gorsky, are the lights of their lives.
“I was the ‘mazik.’ If trouble could be found, I was in the middle of it. When I was 6, I got a bike and someone tried to steal it, slicing me with a razor,” said Gorsky, a native of Buffalo, New York. He is the son of David and Sophie and brother of Irving, Isabel and Louis, all of blessed memory. “I was in the hospital for months with scarlet fever. It was me bonked in the head when a kid threw rocks, and it was me who backed into a pot of boiling water Mother was preparing for canning cherries.”
Still, somehow, he’s reached 100 in great health and great spirit.
Gorsky’s father worked in the wholesale fruit and vegetable business and when the Depression hit, the family landed on hard times. While his parents took to the road selling whatever they could, Len remembers weeks of potatoes and onions.
“We’d get a 50-pound bag of potatoes for a dollar. I had to help so I had a hundred jobs,” said Gorsky. Well, maybe not quite 100, but he sold newspapers and worked as a dishwasher and delivery assistant for a bagel salesman.
Gorsky met his future bride, Millie Newman, at Crystal Beach in Ontario, Canada. “It’s where the young people spent our weekends,” he said. “I introduced myself and we hit the dance hall that night. I asked her for her number but she laughed at me because I didn’t have a pen or paper. It was ‘up here,’ and when I called her two days later — well, that was it.”
Len joined the Air Force Cadets in 1941 and was called to duty the next year. He went to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, then to flight school in Lafayette, Louisiana. After developing a problem with his ear, he was stationed in Boca Raton, Florida, where he taught others ditching aircraft techniques.
Gorsky recalls his memories of service and the three men with “G” last names: Gorsky, Gorchino and Giordano. On one weekend getaway, he recalled breakfast being served with bacon and ham and he reminded his Jewish buddy it was treif (not kosher). At lunch, he again reminded the friend he couldn’t have the ham and cheese. “By dinner, my buddy was sitting as far from me as he could.”
Once he was furloughed, he and Millie married. In addition to marrying the love of his life, he got three new best friends, her brothers Ben, Milton and Mel, he of blessed memory. They stayed in Buffalo, where Gorsky worked for a home improvement company as a door-to-door salesman. In 1948, when a promised bonus for sales didn’t materialize, he and two friends started their own business and, for almost 30 years, Premier Home Furnishings was a success. A 1977 blizzard ultimately shut the doors.
He reopened Premier Home Furnishings on his own and kept it open for 10 years before accepting an offer to sell in 1987. The couple retired to Boynton Beach, Florida, where they built a home on the golf course and a lake. In 2013, with more than a little nudging from their sons, they moved to Texas.
“I’ve lived 100 years and really, the toughest part is the people — the friends and family — that I’ve lost but that’s life,” said Gorsky. “But, because I’ve lived 100 years, I’ve seen the next generations born, I’ve watched them grow, and last year I got to share in my ‘baby’ Sarah’s wedding.”
Sarah married Zachary King last fall. Unfortunately, the Gorskys didn’t make it to the service in Austin but instead were front and center at The Legacy Willow Bend when a second ceremony was held with family friend Zach Horn officiating. “It was incredible, like she is, inside and out.”
“My grandparents always make everyone feel so special. In person, by phone — however it is, you’re ‘it,’” said King, on behalf of her brother and cousins. “They have a magical way of never letting distance matter. Everything about them is heartfelt.”
Millie described their marriage as “a wonderful life, a very special life. Len is a thoughtful guy, very kind, very smart, and boy is his brain amazing.”
He exercises his mind and body, the latter each morning before his feet hit the ground. “I start in bed pulling each knee to my chest 10 times, then I cross over each leg to the other side, and I do 50 sit-ups,” he said, noting he avoids sweets and his favorite meal is a good steak and salad.
Len enjoys reading; the Dallas Morning News, Texas Jewish Post and Wall Street Journal, all delivered to his apartment, and he watches mostly news and sports on television. No longer playing golf, a sport he took up at 70, Gorsky is indeed an avid poker player. He’s admits he’s been known to introduce himself to new residents of The Legacy with a “How do you do, and do you play poker?”
Gorsky spends time at the computer researching the stock market. For more than 20 years, he’s been very hands-on for himself and also sends tips to his children and grandchildren.
In addition to both sons’ love for their dad’s emails analyzing “his” Buffalo Bills’ latest football game and the stock market, Richie speaks about his dad’s true love.
“Everything, just everything my Dad does flows from his love of Mom and the family,” said the younger Gorsky, who lives in Arlington, Virginia. “‘Devoted,’ that’s what he has been to her and all of us always.”
Bob Gorsky of Dallas agrees: “My Dad always had an incredible work ethic but his love, and absolute devotion, for his siblings, for our mom, us kids and the grandkids is everything to him. Goodness and kindness flows from him and he taught us that. I don’t know another man on this earth so beloved.”
Still holding his driver’s license in case he has to get somewhere, and never missing a kiss to the mezuzah on his front door, Gorsky says life mimics the stock market. “There’s good days and bad days. It’s tough right now but you hang in there. The good ones come back.”