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Father Knows JCHE Best

Posted: June 18, 2017

Jack and his daughter Ellen

In honor of Father’s Day, we sat down with two JCHE dads and their children to get a better sense of how JCHE’s affordable housing, programs, and services impact their lives and their families.   

“This has been the best time of his life,” says Ellen, whose father, Jack, moved into our Coleman House in Newton thirteen years ago.

A few months before moving here, Jack’s wife passed away. Ellen was of course anxious about how her father would cope with such a profound loss.

To her great relief, moving to JCHE turned out to be a joyous experience for Jack, who turns 98 in August.    

“Everyone was so welcoming. I could sense he was happy again,” recalls Ellen, who herself moved into Coleman last November, making Jack and Ellen our only father and daughter residents.

Ellen remembers her father working long hours and rarely having any leisure time. Now he stays active on his own terms. He serves on the tenants’ council. He is a member of Newton’s local veterans’ group. He attends the many events, luncheons, and lectures JCHE organizes. And after all that, he still has plenty of time left to play dominos.

A WWII veteran, Jack took part in D-Day, fighting on the beaches of Normandy as a field artillery soldier in the First Army.

Following the war, Jack returned to his native Boston, where he purchased a cab that he drove until retirement. The veteran’s vibrant sense of humor shines through, as he jokes, “driving a cab was more dangerous than fighting in a war: I didn’t get shot in the Army, but I got shot driving a cab!”

Ellen, who calls her dad “my best buddy,” agrees wholeheartedly when Jack says, “this is the best of everything; JCHE does everything very well.” 

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Phil and his son David

“After mom passed away four years ago, my father became depressed,” remembers David, whose 96-year-old father Phil moved into Coleman House thirteen years ago.

The change in Phil’s behavior was abrupt and dramatic. They had been married for 71 years. She was his rock. His soul mate. Before she passed, Phil was full of energy, eager to participate in the many programs and activities Coleman offers our seniors. But after his beloved’s passing, Phil withdrew, became lethargic, and stopped participating.

As you can imagine, it was a heart wrenching period for Phil and his family. The Coleman staff, fully aware of the terrible havoc isolation wreaks on our mental and physical health, relentlessly committed to ensuring that Phil got active again.

Working with Phil’s family, they used every motivational trick in the book to revive the “old” Phil. They refused to let him slip into isolation, making plans as if his life depended on it—because, quite frankly, it did.  

And ultimately, their tireless efforts paid off.  

Today, Phil is as active as ever. He runs Coleman’s movie night committee. He makes popcorn for his fellow residents every day, serves on the tenant council, and like his fellow WWII veteran Jack, is active in the local veterans’ group. He’s also a big fan of our Generations Together program, playing games and participating in discussions with Brandeis students. Phil has also been a pen pal with Boston elementary school students.

And in case that’s not enough, last May, Phil was one of six residents to become Bar Mitzvah during a deeply moving ceremony at Coleman House!  

Working with JCHE's Rabbinic intern, Phil and five other residents studied religious laws, customs and practices, and renewed their commitment to the Torah and Mitzvot. They made their own prayer shawls, attended Friday night Shabbat services, and designed their own Kiddish cups.

“The people who run this place are excellent,” says Phil. 

“When JCHE has a new program that they need volunteers for, Phil is the first stop, because he never says no,” adds David. “They take care of business, period. JCHE is amazing. Nothing short of amazing.”

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Thank you Phil, David, Jack, and Ellen for sharing your heartwarming stories, and Happy Father’s Day from all of us at JCHE!

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