Annette Zimmerman quit her job to take care of her family, and that was when her work became family lore, from finding white shirts for World War II returnees to getting help for "people she met along the way" in life, her family said.
"She was Long Island's volunteer caseworker," said son Robert Zimmerman, of Great Neck.
At 89, the Great Neck grandmother of three died March 30, but to the end, she never stopped thinking of others, those who knew her said.
Her son believes she hung on for her husband of 67 years, Mort, 92, whom she married despite an inauspicious blind date. He stood her up, she'd tell her two sons, and he'd insist he was given the wrong meeting time -- a fond, running gag between the two.
After they married, Mort presented her with flowers every weekend and, after parties at their home, he'd vacuum the place, his family said.
"I think she really stayed alive just to comfort him out of love for him," Robert Zimmerman said.
To her family, she was a woman of style and substance.
She was an assistant buyer for A & S department store when World War II ended but shortages did not, including for men's white shirts. But, as her childhood friends later told her family, Zimmerman was "famous" for finding white shirts for veterans going on job interviews or big dates.
"I think she took the greatest joy finding ways to be of help to people," her son said.
When her older son John's wife had a troublesome pregnancy and had to deal with home renovations, Annette and Mort came to the rescue by dropping Labor Day plans.
"She and my father-in-law stayed for seven months," recalled Ellen Zimmerman, of Warren, New Jersey. "She left the house overnight once to go home to get more underwear. She stayed there for seven months taking care of my kids, my dog, my husband, cooking, cleaning."
Zimmerman helped people at her hair salon, apartment building, her synagogue and more, family and friends said.
"She never allowed a moment to pass when she was not in the midst of dealing with somebody's needs," said Rabbi Robert Widom of her synagogue, Temple Emanuel in Great Neck.
If she called her son for help and he referred people to government agencies, she'd tell him: "Well I can do that. What are you doing to solve the problem?" said Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee board member and co-founder of Zimmerman/Edelson, a public relations firm in Great Neck.
Annette Zimmerman also served as a docent at the Nassau County Museum of Art. As a breast cancer survivor, she counseled patients battling the disease. She was also president of her synagogue's Sisterhood for women to learn and socialize, Widom said.
In addition to her husband Mort of Great Neck, she also is survived by her eldest son John of New Jersey, daughter-in-law Ellen and three grandchildren.
Annette Zimmerman was buried Wednesday at the Beth David Cemetery in Elmont. Donations may be made to her synagogue's Stephen Widom Cultural Center.