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Florence Gertler of Great Neck: Loving mom with a great sense of humor

Florence Gertler with her daughter, Nancy.

Florence Gertler with her daughter, Nancy. Credit: Courtesy of Nancy Gertle

Florence Gertler knew how to think on her feet.

Back in 1976, while she was in Israel as part of her work for the The American Zionist Federation, she was tapped to serve as a tour guide for a group of visiting professors.

Trouble was, Gertler had never been to Israel. But she winged it — and by the end of the tour, some of the professors said she seemed so knowledgeable that they were convinced that she had traveled to the Holy Land at least 10 times.   

“The fact that she could lead a tour of a country she’s never been to is amazing,” said daughter Nancy Gertler, of Great Neck.

Florence Gertler died from COVID-19 complications on April 12 at the Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Woodbury. She was 98.

Gertler was born in 1922 and grew up on the East Side of Manhattan in an apartment right above a synagogue where her father worked as a cantor. 

Her first meeting with Stuart Gertler — who would become her husband and father of their children — almost didn’t happen: Their families were trying to set the two of them up on a blind date, but they kept canceling.

They finally agreed to meet one day in June 1953.

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By the end of August, Stuart and Florence were married.

“They just hit it off — and neither one of them wanted to go on that date,” Nancy said. 

The couple moved to Missouri for Stuart's job as a civilian cartographer for the Air Force.

But their time together was tragically cut short about 10 years after they were married when Stuart died of a heart attack. Nancy was 7 years old at the time, and her brother, Andrew, was 5.

Gertler turned her focus to raising the kids and moved the family from Missouri to Great Neck. After Nancy and Andrew started junior high, she began volunteering for Jewish organizations and eventually worked her way up to director at Hadassah International. 

Her work with the Hadassah gave her opportunities to travel abroad and meet foreign leaders.

Among family, Gertler was known for her wit and her youthful exuberance. 

“She was so vital,” Nancy said. “She was so sharp and she was funny.” 

In addition to her husband, Gertler was preceded in death by her sisters Ruth, Eleanor Simon, and Helen Rosenzweig.

She is survived by Nancy and Andrew, who lives in Bayville, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Correction: Florence Gertler worked for The American Zionist Foundation, served as director at Hadassah International and married Stuart Gertler at the end of August 1953. An earlier version of this story misstated that information.

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