Combine equal parts of love and loyalty, mix with a remarkable joy of living and a gift for helping others — and don’t forget the mastery of math: Those are some of the traits Mort Zimmerman of Great Neck is remembered for.
Zimmerman, 98, died at home on June 11, his family said. "He was defined by his devotion to his family," said his son Robert.
Agreed Great Neck’s Temple Emanuel Rabbi Robert S. Widom: "He was dedicated, first and foremost, to his beloved family, and they returned the devotion in kind."
Zimmerman’s generosity also embraced his community. "He cared deeply about the world in which he lived," the rabbi said. Explained Zimmerman's son: "He never lost his idealism … his gratitude for the opportunities he had — and he was always committed to seeing that happen for others."
Guiding individuals in their careers or through other difficulties came naturally to Zimmerman, whose financial acumen propelled him into becoming the treasurer both at Russ Togs, the now-defunct clothing manufacturer, and at Great Neck’s Temple Emanuel, where he later served as president.
"He was a mentor in so many ways, to so many people in business — I come across people I never even knew existed, who come back to me with extraordinary stories," said Robert Zimmerman, who co-founded a Great Neck public relations firm — Zimmerman/Edelson, now called ZE Creative Communications — and is a Democratic national committeeman.
Born in Brooklyn on July 17, 1922, Mort Zimmerman, a graduate of Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School, enlisted in the Army Air Forces on March 22, 1943. Having scored well in both mathematics and languages, he was posted to the European Civil Affairs Regiment, helping to administer cities the Allies captured in World War II and aiding refugees.
After returning to civilian life, he graduated from Baruch College, attained a master's in business administration from New York University and became a certified public accountant. "He was always brilliant at math and numbers," said his son.
Zimmerman met the woman who would become his wife, Annette, on a blind date that went awry. "She claimed he stood her up; he claimed the car broke down; fortunately for us, they figured that out," their son said.
Two anecdotes about their 67-year marriage are telling. Zimmerman presented his wife with flowers every weekend and, after parties at their home, he would get out the vacuum, his family told Newsday for Annette’s obituary in 2015.
After moving to Massachusetts, where Zimmerman oversaw finances for a lumber company, family ties beckoned. When Zimmerman was hired by Russ Togs in 1964, the family settled in Great Neck, where he taught his children strength and perseverance.
One of many fathers during that era who saw no need for training wheels on bicycles, he instead would run alongside his son. Recalled Robert: "He was always there to brush me off, put a Band-Aid on a scrape — and then make sure I got back on."
When their older son John's wife had a troublesome pregnancy and was coping with home renovations, Mort and Annette Zimmerman moved in for seven months, taking care of everyone and everything from cooking to cleaning to child care.
The couple were passionate about the opera — they had season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera for four decades — traveling with grandchildren and serving the community.
In 2018, Great Neck honored Zimmerman by naming him the grand marshal of the Memorial Day Parade — but like many World War II veterans, at first he was too modest to accept. "It took a lot of persuading," his son said. "He truly loved the experience, it was a great joy to share his experience as a member of the military with the community."
Mort Zimmerman, who was buried on Sunday, also is survived by his son John of Warren, New Jersey, a cardiologist; and three grandchildren.
Said Rabbi Widom: "We had very serious discussions, almost daily, up to the very end of his life. Our talks became a ritual in my own life; I will miss the talks as I will miss him."