(21 Nov 1917 - 12 Jan 2010)
Leo Turkel Leo Turkel, age 92, of Austin, Texas, died January 12, 2010. Leo was born to Simon and Jennie Turkel in Omaha, Nebraska on November 21, 1917. He attended the University of Nebraska and attained Bachelors and Law degrees. After moving to Des Moines, Iowa, Leo met and married Mary Sofen on February 5, 1943. Daughters Sandra Marilyn and Rosalie Ann were added to the family. Leo made his career in the glassware business, working primarily in the Chicago area. The family moved to Park Forest, Illinois, in 1953, and remained in the Chicago area until Leo's retirement. In 1984 Leo and Mary relocated to Austin, Texas. Leo is predeceased by his parents, a brother, Harold, and daughter Sandra. Surviving family members are wife Mary (pictured above), daughter Rosalie and husband Tom, granddaughter Shari Begun and husband Fred, grandson Kevin Cripps and wife Elisa, son-in-law Stan Rosenfeld and wife Maria, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Leo was a loving and generous person. He loved to engage all he encountered in conversation. With the advent of E-Mail, Leo kept current with scores of relatives and friends, always sharing the accomplishments of those near and dear to him. He read widely, especially autobiographies and remained cognitively sharp until his final days. A devoted Cornhusker fan, Leo supported the Big Red sports teams avidly. Graveside services will be held on Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. at Cook-Walden Capital Parks Cemetery, 14501 N-IH 35 in Pflugerville, Texas. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Austin or Temple Beth Israel.
ResidenceStreetAddress: North 16th Street; Age: 2; AbleToSpeakEnglish: Yes; AttendedSchool: No; CanWrite: No; EnumerationDistrict: 29; MaritalStatus: Single; RelationToHead: Son
ResidenceStreetAddress: F Street; Age: 12; AbleToSpeakEnglish: Yes; AttendedSchool: Yes; CanReadWrite: Yes; EnumerationDistrict: 0027; RegistrationDistrict: 27; MaritalStatus: Single; RelationToHead: Grandson
MilitaryComplexion: Dark; EyeColor: Blue; HairColor: Brown; Height: 5 11; Weight: 138
OccupationStreetAddress: 728 Oakland av; Occupation: Office Manager
ResidenceStreet Address: 11008 Jollyville Rd Apt 228; Age: 75;
Street Address: 11028 Jollyville Rd Apt 145;
DeathEulogies for Leo and Mary Turkel by Kevin Cripps 14 Jan 2010
A teacher of mine likes to say that the true meaning of the most famous Hebrew prayer -- the first prayer that we learn in Sunday school -- "Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echad," "Listen, Israel, the Eternal God is One," is that everything in the universe has a single Source, and that therefore, everything is connected, united, and one. There are times in our lives and in the life of humanity when it seems that the forces and energies in our lives are disconnected and in conflict. And there are times -- sometimes, only fleeting moments -- when the oneness of Shema Yisrael is revealed to us. We become aware that there are unseen connections everywhere that bind us to each other, to life and to God.
When we learned this morning that Mary Turkel had died on the very day of her beloved husband, Leo's, funeral -- indeed, even as we contemplated her sudden decline during Leo's hospitalization -- we could not help, through our grief and mourning, to contemplate the miracle and preciousness of these connections. Leo and Mary shared 67 years together. They were so deeply bound up in each other that their marriage and their love for each other served as a role model for others who witnessed their relationship. Granddaughter Shari was always told by her own mother, Sandi, "Find a husband like Gramps." And at grandson Kevin's recent wedding reception, he delivered a speech about the inspiration of his grandparents’ relationship. So although our grief and sense of loss today are deep, we acknowledge that there is also something affirming in the fact that even in her nonresponsive, final days, Mary somehow perceived that Leo was gone, and that she, too, could let go. In this, somehow, the wisdom of Shema is affirmed for us.
I felt a great deal of love and affection for Leo and Mary, and it wasn't surprising to me, when I met earlier today with some of you who were closest to them, to learn that everybody felt that way about the two of them. Leo was gregarious, good-humored, hip to what was going on in the world, a great storyteller, and, according to the family, someone you did not want to compete against in Trivial Pursuit. I can still hear Leo's voice in my mind's ear and picture his smile and feel his handshake. He loved the Temple and was always happy to be there. As for Mary, she is etched into my memory: warm and gracious, always meticulously groomed, always reaching up to me for a hug and a kiss, even when she was, in later years, dependent upon Leo and her walker for mobility. Mary was loving and, like Leo, undemanding -- a quality much cherished by Congregational rabbis.
Leo was born in Omaha, Nebraska and grew up in Lincoln. Mary was born in Detroit and later moved to Des Moines, where she and Leo met. Leo always said that for him, it was love at first sight, although he had to be patient while Mary came around to his point of view. By the way, it seems that patience on Leo's part would be a theme of their relationship -- Mary was forever running late, and someone joked this morning that that remained the case, for even today Leo ended up waiting for Mary, just a bit.
Leo eventually got a law degree but never practiced law. It seems that later in life he regretted this decision somewhat, although he wasn't sure whether the law degree would provide the kind of steady employment in tough times that would enable him to support his family. Mary was a terrific student -- indeed, she was her high school valedictorian, and she was offered a four year college scholarship. But her father died right around that time and she had to go to work instead of school. She, too, harbored some regrets about this. But in later years, as she and Leo traveled the world together, she would often say that she felt as if their travels together provided her with an education of sorts that she cherished.
Both of them were known to have a terrific work ethic. Leo didn't love his job in the glassware business, but he worked hard at it. Mary worked as a secretary, mainly for CPAs, and she knew the dignity of a job well done. Rosalie remarked that "nothing ever left her desk that wasn't perfect," and all her bosses loved and valued her.
Mary was a devoted exerciser. She was particularly drawn to walking and swimming. Someone told a charming story that no matter how tiny the pool, Mary was able to swim laps in it. And even later, in her tiny apartment, she would walk back and forth across the room to get her exercise. Mary was also known to be meticulously clean, both with respect to her own hygiene and her environment. Rosalie remarked that it wasn’t until she moved out of the house that she realized that not everyone cleaned their entire house every day, like her mother did. Even when Mary finally gave in to having a cleaning person, once a week, because she could no longer handle it by herself, she would straighten up before the cleaning person arrived.
Leo had a very big, extended family -- both of his parents came from large families. He cherished keeping in touch with far-flung relatives. No matter where you are visiting, he would brightly tell you, "I have a cousin who lives there that you have to meet!" In his mid-80s, Leo also got a computer and got online, which provided him with additional ways of staying in touch. Partly as a result of the way he maintained his relationships, his family members have continued to receive an astonishing number of phone calls and e-mails from people saddened at the news of his death, as they will surely now be doubly saddened to learn about the loss of Mary. It was surely a great blessing that Leo was mentally so completely sharp, even into his final days. His reading habits tended toward nonfiction: histories, biographies and autobiographies, current events, all of which, as we said, made him unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit and crossword puzzles. The family also commented that Leo didn't have much of a "mental filter" -- his thoughts poured forth without much restraint -- as did his e-mails, which sometimes included off-color jokes.
We've already mentioned that Leo and Mary's marriage was an inspiration to so many. Rosalie remembered how tremendously affectionate Leo and Mary were with each other and with everyone in the entire family. They embraced their sons in law as if they were their own sons. When Rosalie and her late sister, Sandi, were growing up, all of their childhood friends were welcome in their house. And Rosalie remembered how her parents would speak Yiddish to each other, although she never really picked up much Yiddish herself, because they used it mainly as a way to conceal from her things that they didn't want her to know.
One other aspect of Leo and Mary that came up over and over again as we reminisced about them had to do with their honesty and integrity. Someone described them as having been "scrupulously honest and hard-working." It's a beautiful thing to learn of two human beings who were not only adored by their family members, but also, genuinely admired by them.
As a family member of mine likes to say, "Growing old isn't for sissies." And so, in the final years of their lives, Leo and Mary did not have an easy ride. Her dementia worsened, and eventually, after a great internal struggle, Leo came to understand that he could no longer take care of her on his own. But, in spite of the cruelties of that illness, it was a blessing that Mary never stopped recognizing her loved ones, and never lost the impulse or ability to say, "I love you" to all of them. And surely, she knew that Leo never stopped loving her, as well, even as her ability to connect with those around her began to fade.
As we remember Leo and Mary today, we speak the words which tradition gives us to help honor those who have died: zichronam livrachah, May Their Memories Be a Blessing.
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