By Lawrence Garfinkel
Jerry Medowar – friend, confidant, neighbor, booster, prompter, partner.
My first strong awareness of Jerry was just about the time the Historical Society of the Merricks was organized and chartered by the State of New York—1975. He and wife Goldie, dressed as General Washington and Martha, graced the Bi-Centennial Ball held in Merrick to jumpstart that wondrous year. The photographs that we have inherited of that costumed event help keep those memories fresh.
In the ensuing years, Jerry and I were self-appointed brothers—propelling the historical society along its significant path and meeting in other community ventures. These are among my strongest recollections of the man:
His bus tours after the annual July Fourth Declaration of Independence readings – and sometimes walking tours of the Merricks to engage in its history – are legend. Who knew about the whale being dragged through the streets giving rise to the name of Whaleneck Drive….so many of us overlook the memorial to Roxey the dog along the southern side of the LIRR station and his recounting of the legend … the walk in front of what used to be the world-famous Midmer-Losch organ factory and the still-existing building in which it was housed … the airplane built in the basement in North Merrick, the principal’s home next to our first important school building, the racetrack just east of Babylon Turnpike, the homes and buildings of yesteryear and those celebrities who inhabited them.
Of course, I was a passenger on many of those bus rides and learned my history hearing his remarks. Often, I called out to augment a story or to add something to his narrative. This historical narrative was also often the subject of meetings of the society at the Merrick and North Merrick Libraries, and Jerry’s carefully researched talk was illustrated with his own personal collection of memorable photos and documents, for he was our prime historian in a group of historians.
Both our families belonged to Temple Beth Am, where Jerry continued to be Jerry. A strong voice in the sanctuary when he did the readings, his annual narrative of the story of Jonah, his contributions as the librarian and his research and subsequent lectures on the Sephardic Jewish movement were labors of love that continued to educate all of us. We sat next to each other at the Brotherhood meetings, never tiring or each other’s company or stories
Years before I knew him Jerry was an elementary school teacher in the Merrick system, a lawyer with a Merrick practice, an appointed and then-elected judge and the attorney for the Merrick public schools. It was odd to me that he was only voted Man of the Year one time by the Merrick Chamber of Commerce, for Jerry Medowar was Mr. Merrick in so many ways.
I have already missed him in a very personal way. He passed on just days before the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, scheduled for July 4 at the Merrick Gazebo. For 20 years or so, even though I held the main spotlight as the historical society’s president, making sure that all who wanted to read a line of those sometimes-run-on sentences would receive their turn, Jerry, too, was there in support, often with a bullhorn that he managed to secure from one of our government entities. “ Jerry,” I would say… “you will never need the bullhorn to speak …. We can always hear you.”
No one has done more for Merrick than Jerry Medowar. I already had a brother when my family moved here, and I was so blessed to have another one. He left us as he was working on the narrative to be posted in the library near the actual organ we secured for our historical society exhibit. Who will finish that work now?
Indeed, who will ever step up to be Jerry. Alas … only Jerry Medowar can be Jerry.