A word about my father

Theodore Leonard Gershun


We went to Friday night services at Honolulu’s Temple Emanu-El  so that I could say Kaddish for my father. I finally used one of the yartzeit candles that I bought last September for the anniversary of his death on January 2nd.

My dad passed away 22 years ago.

I am standing with my mom and sisters after his funeral

Before he died he knew that I was moving to Israel to live there for a while. What he never knew is that it turned out to be a short while and I soon moved to Hawaii. He never knew my life here. He never knew my first husband or my second (who often reminds me of him!) He never met any of his grandchildren in person. But he lived a full life until it was cut short by cancer.

I wasn’t with him the day that he died, but I was with my mother the days before and after. I’d always call her on January 2 and she and I would talk each year about the New Year’s Eve dinner we had together in between trips to the hospital  and the meeting with the staff at the mortuary to make the final arrangements.

We’d laugh remembering  how the guy at Forest Lawn suggested we inter my father’s ashes next to a huge statue of Jesus as a perfect spot and renew our satisfaction of our choice, The Wall of Knowledge, overlooking the freeway, assuring ourselves that he would be happy to overlook the “Road to Vegas,” one of his favorite getaways.

I missed talking about it with her this year. With my mother’s death so recent and that particular loss so poignant, I don’t talk or write about my dad very much. But he was a very interesting man.

My younger sister recently wrote a short biography of him for a family genealogy and I would like to share it here. I guess you could call her our guest blogger of the day. Thanks boo.

Theodore Leonard Gershun, b. February 19, 1924, d. January 2, 1990

Ted Gershun was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the second child of Selma and Ben Gershun (although his sibling Shirley often introduced herself as his younger sister). Ted believed strongly in education, the stock market, up-and-coming technology, his ability to beat the house at the dice tables in Las Vegas, and supporting the underdog. He trained as a bombardier (he was too short to be a pilot) in WWII and was sent to Japan but the war ended before he saw combat. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of Iowa in 1948 and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1955. Ted worked in the aerospace industry in Southern California for 20 years, most notably contributing to the development of the heat shield for the Apollo spacecraft. In the 1970s Ted returned to school and received a law degree from Western State University College of Law. After passing the California State Bar exam (first try!) in 1975, Ted bought a used pickup truck so he could haul around evidence if the need arose and he practiced small-town law for another 15 years.

Ted married Gloria Polsky in 1948, and in 1961 they relocated to Buena Park, CA  where they raised three daughters — Martha, Elizabeth (Betsy) (boo), and Lorraine (Lorrie) — in a house filled with the coolest toys (who else had a unicycle, a tandem bicycle, a pogo stick, AND stilts?), the complete volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia, and the biggest swing set in the neighborhood. Ted liked nothing better than to take his family to Shakey’s Ole Time Pizza Parlour for two large pizzas (one with sausage, one with portugese linguica) and to sing along (loudly) with the resident piano player. He always grilled a perfect steak and only liked iceberg lettuce and radishes in his salad (covered with bleu cheese dressing). Ted’s idea of a family vacation was to pack everyone into the car and drive five hours to Las Vegas, where he would gamble through the nights and use his winnings to support his wife’s and daughters’ daytime shopping excursions.


Ted loved gadgets and tools, manual or electronic. He owned an amazing set of slide rules and protractors, which he tried in vain to teach his young daughters how to use. But they were more interested in the first electronic calculator he brought home in the 1960s — it cost $99 and was the size of a box of Kleenex. (Oops! Make that a box of tissues; one of his pet peeves was using a brand name as a generic noun.) Ted had a quick (and slightly off-color) sense of humor which he shared with anyone who would laugh at his jokes. While he was not at all athletic, he was a strong swimmer and he was always willing to take a ride on the Matterhorn or the Mad Hatter’s Wild Teacups at Disneyland. Ted died in 1990 and his ashes are interred in a cemetery that overlooks the freeway that leads to Las Vegas.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. younger sister boo
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 19:33:02

    I am honored to be your guest blogger. I think the photos are an excellent accompaniment to the text. Happy New Year, Daddy.


  2. MIL
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 20:12:36

    What a wonderful tribute. I was delighted to read the story, I’ve heard so little about your dad. And now I know the rest of the story.


  3. lauriehanan
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 22:39:37

    Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself with the rest of us.


  4. Barbara Dawson
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 23:49:32

    Thanks to both boo and Lorrie for giving me the opportunity to read
    this and to see the wonderful pictures. Ted was very dear to me, and
    I remember him with much admiration and love. Aunt Barbie


  5. Penny Clodfelter
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 00:59:22

    I am a fan of your sister, Martha, and now I know why I like her so much! Missing our parents will always continue. Those wonderful memories help forge the link between here and the hereafter. Best, Penny Clodfelter, Kansas City, MO


  6. Donna Paul
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 19:48:51

    Hey Lorrie! It’s your old roommate – you know, the one who is terrible at remembering birthdays! Can’t believe I forgot yours – but it sounds like you had a great one.

    My favorite memory of your dad was the time I was invited to go to Vegas with you and your family. I remember us standing next to him at the craps table while he tried to explain the game – I remember him making me laugh so hard I thought I would pee in my pants! And I was so in awe at how he kept winning – and so happy when he gave us each 100.00 to “go play with”. And let’s not forget dinner at Beni Hana’s (I think that was the first time I actually went to a Beni Hana’s!) and seeing Frank Sinatra’s show. That trip is one of my favorite memories and I still talk about it with friends to this day.

    Your dad was a great guy with a definate wicked sense of humor and someone who still, after all these years, brings a smile to my face.

    Ke aloha,


    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Jan 09, 2012 @ 16:43:10

      Hi Donna,
      What a nice surprise! Thank you very much for sharing a GREAT memory. That was a fun weekend. I love telling people that we went to see Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas and I am glad to share the memory with you. How’s hula? Aloha.


      • Donna Paul
        Jan 09, 2012 @ 22:38:54

        Hula is great! I love it – I’ll email you some photos from a couple shows we did out here when I get them. I’m taking a more advanced class from a Kumu who teaches down the street from my home. She’s awesome & I love it -sore muscles & all! Hope to be visiting Hawaii sometime in 2012 – I’ll let you know if and when I make it out there – would love to see ya – it’s been too long.

        Ke Aloha,


  7. Colleen Tillis
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 16:04:03

    Hi Lorrie, I loved reading this bio about your dad. It makes me think of my own father who passed several years ago. What a huge part of our lives our fathers are to us daughters. Your childhood was kind of parallel to mine. There were 3 children in our family too; I being the oldest. My Dad took us to H. Salt Fish & Chips to eat and also another family outing was to the drive-in movies. Sounds like you had a wonderful childhood too. Were so lucky to have fond memories! Colleen Tillis


    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Jan 17, 2012 @ 16:12:26

      Hi Colleen,
      So nice to see you here at my blog. Thank you for the lovely comment. I never knew your parents, but imagine they must have been wonderful considering how fabulous you are. I never went to H. Salt Fish & Chips, but just the name sounds delicious. Say hi to your husband and I look forward to seeing you here soon. Aloha.


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