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Eulogy for Jeanette Shwartz Levenson

by Alan Levenson, her son

Jeanette lived 96 years – a long life by any measure.

She was a child of Portland, born and raised. She lived her entire life here.

In the beginning, the Shwartz family with 3 daughters and 3 sons made their home on Wilson St on Munjoy Hill.

Jeanette’s mother Anna had a father in Portland, Chaim Beryl Wolf, who ran a small clothing store on Middle St, Portland as the city had not expanded very far west.

When Jeanette was only 13, the Shwartz family lost their wife and mother to a disease that today would be cured in a week by penicillin.

It was a terrible lost to everyone. The youngest daughter Charlotte was sent to Syracuse, NY to live an aunt. Jeanette’s 3 brothers and sister, Esther, were older and left home. The 3 mem had all graduated from Bowdoin College. Esther married and when to live in Boston.

It was Jeanette that lived her elderly father, David Shwartz. He and two of her brothers, Harry and Sidney, worked buying and leasing Portland real estate. Harry also was in the insurance business.

It was not easy for Jeanette growing up without a mother. Those of you that knew her realize that she was always a shy, private person – and extremely sensitive.

When she graduated Portland HS, she went to Emerson College in Boston. She told me that she got a bachelor’s degree there call a BLI (Bachelor of Literary Interpretation). I use to kid her about that degree – BLI. She got a job in an office in a Boston department store after graduating.

On a visit home in Portland, she was introduced to a young lawyer recently from Lawrence, Mass by her brother Harry. Mayo Levenson had purchased an insurance policy from Harry. Harry brought him home to dinner to meet Jeanette. This was a marriage that lasted 54 years. They lived in 4 homes in Portland on Noyes St, Longfellow St, Baxter Blvd, and Clifton St.

They had two children – myself and my sister Donna, 5 grandchildren, and to date 2 great grandchildren. [By 2016 there are now 5 great grandchildren Zachary & Daniel Ravel ,Hannah Berzinis, Mason Elizabeth Zerbe & Matthew Glickman. - Alan]

There was a great contrast in the personalities of our mother and father. Whereas, our mother was quiet, reserved and introverted, Mayo was explosive, unpredictable, and extroverted.

When Donna and I were younger, we did not appreciate how different mother and father were. However, as we got older, it became readily apparent.

The marriage was successful because my mother idolized and would defer to my father in most things. Every legal story in which he told her about his cases depicted him as a hero of the story. She listened and believed. She was a wonderful audience. After I started to practice law with my father I had trouble recognizing the cases from his discriptions.

In the early days when we were growing up, we listened to the radio (no television). We use to hear programs like Stella Dallors, my Gal Sunday, Lorenzo Jones, Walter Winchell and my favorite Lone Ranger. Those were happy times.

When time came to go to Hebrew school, the Portland boys use to take the bus from Nathan Clifford and Lincoln Junior High School in town to its Pearl St location. I still remember the smell of that old decaying building – and the teachers – that valiantly tried to hold our attention in the afternoons. After regular school was done, it was my mother Jeanette who was always there to pick up up – 5 days a week – after school.

She was always there for our family – for lessons & doctors & dentists for Donna and I. My parents rented a house for several summers at Pine Point so we could enjoy the beach. They sent us to camps, prep schools, colleges – me to law school.

People ask me ‘did your mother work?’. I answer ‘she had a full time job-raising us kids’.

When you are young, you accept all the work and effort by your parents as your due. Only when you become a parent yourself, do you appreciate them and their efforts.

My mother was at her best as a caregiver. Besides sitting by our bedside with all the childhood illnesses such as chicken pox, whopping cough, measles and malaria (I threw that in to see if you were listening ). She cared for her two bachelor brothers Harry and Sidney, who lived in Portland, when they got sick.

Jeanette believed in and participated in encouraging H S students to attend college through her contributions to the Jewish Women’s scholarship fund. She continued her grandfather’s tradition by supporting Cedar’s capital campaign and she was prominent in being part of the renovations that we all see today outside the Temple.

Of all the 3 girls and 3 boys who were the children of David and Anna Shwartz, Jeanette at 96 outlived them all. She never understood how or why that she had such a long life, far longer than any of her brothers and sisters, or mother and father. (Perhaps the Rabbi can provide a theological explanation).

However the fact is that those who came in contact with Jeanette including the nurses and CMAS at Cedars during her last years always remarked on what a sweet personality she had and how unassuming and how much interest she showed in all the activities. Every day read the newspaper from beginning to end.

Jeanette lived with my father Mayo for 54 years. She then lived alone for another 16 years.

I think it was very appropriate on behalf of those relatives here today as well as those, who have gone before, to say thank you to Jeanette Shwartz Levenson for the example of your life and for all the that you have given us. Today we celebrate your life - and we wish you -eternal rest.

Goodbye Mother.

thanks to Alan Levenson for the information

Links to similar items:
  • Lifecycle -- Jewish Life Stories : Obituaries -- Portland

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