I fell in love when I was a senior in high school and married when I was 20 years old. We were hippies and believed in free love. The ’60s impacted me greatly. I left law school to get a master’s degree in social work—my interest was in communities and the concept of “white flight.” I taught and had a private practice.
After the birth of our two kids, we made a deal to change to a more conventional marriage. But he couldn’t stick to it, so we divorced.
About a year and a half later, I enrolled my youngest son in Hebrew school. The rabbi asked me how I was doing. I told him I was having trouble putting the Chanukah toys together. He offered to help. He was 25 years older than I was. We were married for 25 years. It was fabulous. He was chair of the Black/Jewish clergy, and we had a very active political life.
During that time, I learned the business side of social work, all about finance and balance sheets. When I went for the top position in an agency, a man got the job and I was the second choice. That happened three times. Finally, I went to Planned Parenthood. I was hired as the executive director for Bucks County. I held that position for 16 years, overseeing a staff of 75 and a budget of about $8 million.
For a long time, I fought against my looks. I did not want to look Jewish. But at Planned Parenthood, they loved my spirit and spontaneity and that I was fearless and outgoing—everything I attributed to growing up Jewish.
When my husband got pancreatic cancer, I had 13 months to prepare to be a widow. I took writing courses and documented his illness. An old friend came to my husband’s shiva. I asked how his wife was. He said she had end-stage Alzheimer’s disease. About six months later, I asked him to a concert. We fell in love very quickly. I went to a rabbi to get counseling. He went to a psychologist. Both said, “Life is for the living, as long as she (his wife) came first.” His mother and kids were so thankful that he found somebody. The day after she passed, he moved in with me. We have been married now for four years.
This is an excerpt from a comprehensive interview.