Jerome Ornstein died in the early hours of Oct. 2 under a full moon and balmy breeze that gently escorted him from his loving family and his devoted caregivers at Windemere. He was 79. Shedding the burdens of diabetes and Parkinson’s, then softly drawing his last earthly breath, he gently and comfortably sailed on ahead ready to cast his line into eternity’s most secretive fishing spot.
Jerry was the youngest of three children born to Harry and Leah Ornstein on March 17, 1933. He graduated from Boston Latin School and completed his degree at Boston University. Enlisting into the Army, he was sent to France.
After the Army, he resided with his mother in Maine. Later, they moved to Mattapan and West Roxbury. He began his career in the emerging field of computers. As the head of the data processing center at Salem State College in Salem, he earned the respect of many colleagues and students alike. When co-workers started a weekly bowling club Jerry eagerly joined. Later, he worked at Digital. His desk always displayed the most unique collection of tchotchkes. He loved opera, classical music, museums, art and most of all fishing at Quabbin Reservoir and Jamaica Pond. Despite his strong determination, he would return home more often than not with stories of the “big ones” that got away. Jerry was highly motivated to “get photographic evidence” when the fishing gods smiled his way.
Remaining single for his entire life, he devotedly cared for Leah, his mother, until she entered assisted living. Simultaneously, Jerry shined in his exceptional role as the best uncle any kid could ever have by mentoring all his nieces and nephews. His sister Rosalyn and her husband David Charter had four sons: Harvey, Edward, Michael and Steven. His brother Melvin Ornstein and wife Leona had a son, Eric, and a daughter, Beth. Soon numerous grand nephews and nieces came under his wing.
Jerry never missed any family event, be it a Seder, bar mitzvah, holiday, birthday or wedding. He relished all of the finer aspects of life. The first thing he would order when dining out was “Chivas on the rocks.” His love of food was obvious to all. His mood was always upbeat. He drove out to Tanglewood Concerts and picnicked at many state parks. He traveled to family events in Chicago, Texas, Israel and New York. He loved the ocean but detested sand.
When diabetes and Parkinson’s disease tried to dictate his life, Jerry happily accepted a chance to live on the Vineyard with his nephew Ed Charter and his wife, Eileen, and sons Gabriel, Zachary and Seth. Jerry lived for a while in a small apartment and even rescued a spunky junkyard cat he named Butch in honor of his childhood pet.
After Jerry experienced more serious health setbacks, Ed was able to get him into the assisted living wing of the newly-opened Windemere. Through the attentive and exceptional care of the staff, Jerry enjoyed several great years there. Always a charmer, Jerry flirted with many female admirers. He painted, played bridge, went on outings, learned a little piano and participated in numerous activities. Despite enjoying mealtimes to the “fullest,” he sometimes could be found raiding the snack closet. He especially loved going out for ice cream or French fries with Ed. Jerry would often remark that he was “as pleased as punch” and would often tease certain family members about their physical attributes. He jokingly described them as possessing “a face only a mother could love.” He was an avid Patriots and Red Sox fan. Always wearing his team’s jackets or hats, he would never miss watching a game.
Illness prompted a switch to the second floor of Windemere where Jerry forged additional new bonds with his skilled caregivers. Jerry truly loved all of the staff there. It was obvious to anyone who visited that his love was returned many times over by the dedicated, compassionate team of professionals looking out for his welfare. As his health declined, Jerry’s lack of mobility kept him in his wheelchair. The basics of daily living became very difficult. Observing this, Ed sought to improve things where he could. Jerry held the distinction of one of the few Windemere residents who had doctor’s orders for a nightly hot fudge sundae or a Chivas cocktail.
Gradually, it became evident to Ed that it would soon be “Jerry’s time.”
On Sept. 24, Ed spoke with the dedicated caregivers at Windemere and Hospice. After visiting Jerry daily, Ed began a vigil on Sept. 29. Jerry was made as comfortable as possible. The caring staff at Windemere went above and beyond the call of duty to make Jerry calm, peaceful, and well cared for around the clock. They graciously preserved his dignity. As classical music played in the background and Eileen held his hand, Ed reassured Jerry “that everything was taken care of.” On Oct. 2 Jerry gently drifted off peacefully.
On the warm, sunny morning of Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, Jerry was laid to rest in the Ornstein family plot at Liberty Progressive Cemetery, in Everett. A single Monarch butterfly danced among family members as they spoke fondly of Jerry. They listened as Rabbi/Cantor Hallie sang melodic prayers and read an upbeat, poetic homage. Everyone took his or her turn to complete the final mitzvah task. As if on cue, the monarch butterfly soared upward, catching the passing breeze.
Donations in Jerry’s memory may be made to Windemere Nursing Home or to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. Other suggestions to honor his memory include raising a toast of Chivas, enjoying a hot fudge sundae or French fries, naming your next cat Butch or by enjoying your favorite piece of art or by visiting a museum. Jerry would “be pleased as punch!”
The Stanetsky Memorial Chapel handled the arrangements, assisted by the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home of Oak Bluffs. Please visit Stanetsky Memorial Chapels at stanetsky.com for online guest book information.
The Ornstein, Charter, Taylor and Ostrer families graciously extend their thanks to the many kind expressions of sympathy from all who knew Jerry. They send a special thank you to the Windemere Nursing Home team of caregivers for their exceptional devotion.