For Dad on his 95th Birthday

To Dad and my wonderful Aunt Betty, happy 95th birthday!  Since the passing of my dear Aunt Minna, this is the first year that the triplets are not celebrating together.  So there is grief at such enormous loss alongside the joyous marking of this remarkable event.

Being a triplet was part of their lives and identity, from birth in 1927 through a childhood in three boroughs: Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan. I grew up looking at photos of them in matching outfits, the threesome on the beach near their home in the Rockaways and later, in front of their house on Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, or the four of them with their older sister Addie. My grandfather worked in the garment industry so he had much of their clothes made for them, and that handiwork is evident in the adorable identical dresses for the girls, the shorts for my dad. Even if they hadn’t been born on the same day they would have drawn attention for their striking appearance.

The family was living on the Upper West Side by the time they found romantic partners in their 20’s and moved out to marry. Each triplet had three kids and with Addie’s seven, there were 16 first cousins, of whom I am the youngest. The siblings stayed close, visiting often with each other, celebrating Jewish holidays, traveling together.

For the triplets’ 90th we had a big party, a pre-pandemic bi-coastal in-person gathering. Last year in keeping with Covid, we celebrated on Zoom. This year again there will be a Zoom meeting with Betty and her kids as well as the children of Minna and Addie and their spouses. So a lot of people will get to celebrate this momentous occasion.

I also will get to celebrate in person with my siblings and three of their four kids. Four generations, counting my little great nephew.  (I’ll be the sole rep of our family as B is in Portland and T and V will be staying home, since V isn’t a good traveler these days.)  

It’s been a tough year for my dad: in addition to losing his sister, he broke his hip and had a slow recovery from the operation. His vision in one eye is failing. He occasionally struggles to find the right word (but then, don’t most of us over 50 have the same issue?).  Yet overall he’s doing remarkably well for 95. He just retired this past year after working for 65+ years. The last time I visited, he beat me at Boggle repeatedly. Not saying a lot – my poor spatial relations make this a hard game for me. Still, as he strained to see and write down words his list showcased his extensive vocabulary.  I inherited my love of language and words from him, So here’s one for you Dad:


Celebrate, from Middle English celebraten, borrowed from Latin celebratus, “to observe festivity, praise, honor.”

I’ve covered observing the festivity, here’s the praise and honor.

My sister, brother and I are lucky to have such a wonderful father. Loving, wise and funny, generous and kind. Everyone loves my dad. What more can a person want from life? And his has been full and happy and long and I savor every birthday as our great good fortune, to have a dad, Zeide and elste Zeide.



My dad taught me by example attributes I hold dear, especially honesty and humility. Living in a time of duplicity in politics and corporate life, honesty is hard to come by. And humility? We venerate celebrity, we cultivate followers and “likes.” We want attention. Humility is becoming a lost art. Yet for being the best educated person I know, brilliant and accomplished, my father has always remained humble.


He also values his privacy. It’s nobody’s business how much money you make, what you do in your spare time, what candidate you support – he was vehemently opposed to political bumper stickers but relented when my mother campaigned for Bob Edgar, a stellar PA congressman who went on to serve as President of Common Cause. He also values others’ privacy, having discretion when it came to the secrets and complex life details of his many clients. 

Dad’s goal as a lawyer was to be helpful, which also shows his humility: he wanted to be of service to others. He did this through his expertise yet never bragged about it.  What made him such a good lawyer was not just his knowledge and skill but also his personal approach: Patient, understanding, non-judgemental.

A proud born and bred New Yorker, his demeanor seems better suited to the Quaker city of Philadelphia, where he’s spent most of his life.  The motto of the Philadelphia Bulletin, the evening paper we had delivered (back when major cities had at least two dailies) was “Nearly everyone reads the Bulletin,“ which is a very understated Philadelphia type of saying. 

He has led a life that is fulfilling and rich yet not in any way ostentatious. It is a kind of quiet, a way of not needing the world to revolve around you, something that requires a lot of self-confidence.  After all, if we truly believe in ourselves do we really need praise wherever we go? 

And yet, in being honest, humble, confident yet modest, my father is revered and adored. Simply for being an extraordinary person, which of course is not so simple. What more could we value in someone than everything my father possesses in spirit, intellect, and heart?
How lucky I am, we all are, to have him in our lives.

With love and gratitude I look forward to celebrating another year.

20 thoughts on “For Dad on his 95th Birthday

  1. Beautifully stated and really captures Uncle Joe. You’re very brave to play Boggle with him. Any word game is not going to well against him, not to mention checkers! Happy Birthday Uncle Joe! And thanks so much for these essays Joanie.

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  2. Dear Joan, I loved waking up to read this. I miss Minna so much and the whole birthday “thing” seems a bit lost… But now it’s found again reading your words…. And remembering that even though the whole birthday tradition was about the three of them, their individuality is once again celebrated through your words about your wonderful Dad.

    My father will turn 97 on March 12 and my relationship with him is a bit more strained and complicated. I talk to him very often and I feel very close, yet conflicted in my adoration.

    I am committed now to appreciate his clarity of mind more than I have been. That gift has been a bit clouded by his newfound sense of self grandiosity and a bit of narcissism. But, at 97? I guess were allowed.

    Thank you for your beautiful words. I will see you on zoom on Saturday.

    Happy Birthday to Joe and Betty!

    Love, Emily

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  3. Joan, lovely tribute. I would add that his razor sharp sense of humor and of course his puns are what I also adore about him.

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  4. Amen, Joan! What a beautiful tribute to Joe, someone of impeccable integrity, goodness and humility, as you have captured. I am so lucky to have married into the Hocky family, whose legacy is in triplicate… rippling out through the unique, loving Minna and Betty – and Addie too, the extraordinary 16 first cousins and deeply influencing the partnered who married in and the next two generations as well. It has been a year of loss, tempered by watching the extraordinary family stand together to hold one another up. Grateful for the cousins who helped make the Hocky triplets and 2/27/27 included in Guinness World Records …. And for your blog post Joan that honors all that goes into the making of an extraordinary life.

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  5. Thanks Emily. Yes Minna’s loss is so great and for you I understand how much grief remains. And still we celebrate the 2 and the 3.
    Blessed to have uncomplicated feelings about my dad – great you’re better appreciating all yours’ still has to share with the world.
    ❤️

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  6. Thanks Nancy! How could I not mention his humor and puns?! Such a big part of him and our time together. 💕

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  7. Thanks so much Abby. So glad to have you as a sister and member of the mishpacha, and getting to celebrate dad together.

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  8. You’ve been given his gift for words and maneuvering them just right to make a beautiful tribute. Its a contrast – his use of words are usually double meaning in the form of puns. Yours are deeper meaning with insight and prose. Write-on! Love this tribute to my uncle and our entire family.

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  9. What a wonderful portrait of my dear brother Joe. He has such wonderful qualities,: his patience, his kindness his sense of humor, just to name a few. Thanks for the true and loving words about Joe .My love for him is forever.
    Betty

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