Harriet and Jerry Shenkman were finally able to be together in the same room Wednesday at The Bristal at White Plains.
“It’s been quite an experience, and not something I’d ever imagine in my lifetime,” Harriet said.
Overcoming the dual challenge of a pandemic and cognitive decline, Jerry has spent the last three years battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the debilitating disease has robbed most of the 80-year-old’s memories forged during 58 years of marriage, he hasn’t forgotten his wife.
“Seeing him and how he lights up, and how happy he is when he sees her,” Regional Director Winsome Bent said. “And to see what happens today, he can physically be closer to her, we are excited about that.”
During the eleven months of the pandemic, Harriet has visited Jerry every day. She would stand outside of his window to let him know that she will always be there for him.
The Bristal says Harriet’s loving dedication to Jerry led them to purchase outdoor heaters so that she could stay warm.
“To see the devotion and the love and how the pandemic has kind of kept us apart, but on the other hand, the things we can do to bring people together,” Executive Director Rena Hyman said.
Harriet had originally scheduled her in-person reunion with Jerry for Valentine’s Day, but she was no longer available on that day, because she will be receiving her COVID-19 vaccine.
According to Harriet, their first date was a double blind date at the Half Note, a jazz club on Hudson Street in Manhattan. Jerry was such a Jazz aficionado, that while he reveled in the music that night, he forgot to pay attention to his date.
Harriet pulled her girlfriend into the bathroom and said, “Why did you fix me up with this guy?” But she gave him a second chance, and she says the rest is history.
Harriet and Jerry were married in 1963, just after she graduated from Brooklyn College. She taught for two years and then the couple moved to Durham, N.C. where Jerry received a J.D. from Duke University Law School and Harriet received her M.Ed. from the Graduate School.
Jerry served as General Counsel for the University of North Carolina Medical System. They moved back north living in Riverdale, Pound Ridge and Scarsdale.
Harriet worked as a professor of education for more than forty years at CUNY. They raised three children and have two granddaughters.
“Jerry can still identify the Jazz greats and the Yankee players going way back,” Harriet said. “He is also good at doing numbers in his head, more quickly than any of us can.”
And now, vaccinations and loosening restrictions have made in-person visits possible.
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