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Florence Warshawsky, baker supreme for every holiday, dies at 73

Florence (Flory) Warshawsky, baker supreme and wife of

Florence (Flory) Warshawsky, baker supreme and wife of retired Nassau State Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky.  Credit: Warshawsky family

Red, white and blue blondies might have been coming out of Flory Warshawsky’s oven this weekend to celebrate Independence Day.

Unless she found a new recipe to try. Or tweaked one herself.

Halloween meant pumpkin and ghost cookies. Rugelach pastries were for Rosh Hashanah, hamantaschen, the triangular filled-pocket cookie, for Purim. There might be shamrock cookies for St. Patrick’s Day, egg-shaped ones for Easter, or crushed-peppermint bars for Christmas.

“She was an interdenominational holiday baker,” said her husband, Ira Warshawsky, the retired Nassau State Supreme Court justice. “She’d bake for Jewish holidays, and she’d bake for Christmas and Easter, St. Patrick’s Day.”

“HAV2BAKE,” read the vanity license plate of her white Lexus IS.

Flory Warshawsky died June 30 in Mineola, at NYU Winthrop Hospital. She was 73.

The cause was abdominal cancer, which came after the family thought her body had overcome pancreatic cancer after major surgery in October 2018.

“Everything seemed good, but apparently it wasn’t,” said Warshawsky, who is now of counsel at the law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein in Garden City.

After the surgery, Warshawsky believed that her return to the kitchen — where she’d long baked cookies, cakes and other goods that would be delivered to court staff when he was a State Supreme Court justice, from 1998 until 2011 — marked her rebound.

“I could still hear the wireless printer going into the night with new recipes to try the next day. Or the near future. When she could no longer walk stairs, my job was to retrieve the printer contents each morning. When she could no longer stand for any length of time she sat on the edge of a stool to continue to bake and prepare other dishes. When she was too weak to do that she would sit in her wheelchair, partially prepare baked products and meals and direct me as her sous chef on what were the next steps,” he recalled. “She was preparing me to be alone.”

He added: “I felt like I was a widower in training.”

Florence Elaine Michaels was born April 3, 1947, in Paterson, New Jersey, the middle child of Nathan Michaels, who owned a neighborhood variety store, and Evelyn Michaels, née Schwartz, a homemaker and department-store clerk. The couple were first-generation Americans.

Flory, as she liked to be called, graduated in 1964 from East Side High School and Bridgeport University in Connecticut in 1968.

She had met Warshawsky in 1963 when her brother Les set the two up on a date. She was a high school junior and Warshawsky was a college freshman, and the two men were classmates at Rutgers University.

The two began dating, married in 1968, and lived in apartments in Nassau before moving to Westbury, where they lived for the rest of their marriage in the Salisbury section in an expanded cape.

Within a decade of the wedding, she got a master’s from C.W. Post in medical education.

She taught biology at Sanford H. Calhoun High School, in Merrick, and for about 20 years handled West Coast sales for the fudge maker Calico Cottage in Amityville.

Over the years, Warshawsky recalled, she would cook meals for ill friends: chicken matzo ball soup was a staple.

“Unless they were vegan, then she adjusted. Even when a friend was on a special diet she would research and find new recipes,” he said.

In addition to Warshawsky, she is survived by their older son Jason of Newberg, Oregon, and younger son Bryan of Boulder Creek, California; and her brothers, Leslie Michaels of Carmichael, California, and Howard Michaels of Hamilton, New Jersey.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the family’s arrangements are private. Beginning this weekend, there will be a shiva via the videoconferencing app Zoom.

Among her culinary legacies: her sons Bryan, an avid cook — the two would chat daily about food — and Jason. Ira Warshawsky recalled that last week, his wife had directed Jason in how to make the red, white and blue blondies.

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