Saturday, March 16, 2013
Although my father, Arnold Klotz has been gone now twenty-three years, his memory is indeed a blessing for me. Everyone knew him as Arnie. He was a warm, loving and very funny person. My dad and grandfather Max ran a small insurance business called, oddly enough, Klotz Insurance. Their office was at the Insurance Exchange Building, 175 West Jackson Blvd, in Chicago, part of the Stewart, Keater, Kessberger and Lederer agency. They called themselves insurance brokers. Whereas the agents in the office represented the insurance companies who wrote the policies, brokers represented the customers who bought the policies from the insurance companies. Dad was always presenting claims to the companies and defending claims for his clients. My dad sold his clients the insurance and then helped them collect (that's when they needed him the most). He spent most of his days out making calls, seeing clients who had problems and helping them resolve issues regarding losses.
In those days the insurance industry had a somewhat bad reputation. People who couldn't make it in other careers often wound up selling insurance. Many were not exactly the most reliable. Once when I was a little boy I visited the office. I distinctly remember Mr. Lederer (the big boss of the agency) taking me aside and saying, "See all of the men working here (there must have been 200 at desks that filled an entire floor of the building), your father is the one everyone trusts. He is number-one honest." That was Arnie Klotz, avid golfer, Cubs fan, the guy who loved to sneak away with his buddy Roy Levy for an afternoon at Wrigley or at the Windy City pool hall on Cicero Avenue for a game of three cushion billiards.
Now, after almost two years of retirement in Bloomington, Indiana, Juca uncovered a small plastic bag in a box of stuff. In the bag were five pencils. No big deal, right? Well, upon looking at the pencils I see the printing Klotz Insurance, Wa 2-0173. Wabash 2-0173, my father's business phone number; a number I had always remembered even though Klotz Insurance ceased to be, around 1975.
I remember so many things my father said to me over the years. He loved Juca and her sister Helenita, adored Jeremy and Michael, his grandsons, but also loved the Israelis that I used to bring home from camp in Wisconsin on days off. He loved most of the things I did in my life, my friends, my music (although he never owned a record or even a radio. He used to say that if it didn't have four wheels, he wasn't interested...he absolutely loved automobiles).
In about 45 minutes I will officiate at two boys B'nai Mitzvah here in Greencastle, Indiana. I serve as the rabbi at the Hillel here (DePauw University). Just as my dad never missed one of my football games in high school (he often said to me after a game, "Man that defensive tackle gave you a hard time...but you handled him.") both my mom and dad often accompanied me to high holiday pulpits to watch me "play" on the Bima. Dad loved to help me roll the Torah and find the holiday Torah portions. Although his great grandfather in Poland had been The Rabbi of Tarnov, and his father, my grandfather, was one of the most learned Jews in our little Czech synagogue in Chicago, he knew absolutely no Hebrew. I think he was impressed that I could spot the exact starting place in the Torah for that day's reading. If he were here today, he would certainly have helped me find the boys' Torah portions and then taken his seat in the back row to watch his son go to work.
As I was about to leave the motel room, Bible and prayer book in hand, I decided to grab a pencil in case I would need to note something down during the service. There it was, Wa 2-0173. Dad's always with me. We unveil cemetery markers, tombstones, and look at scrapbooks and snapshots to remember our parents. Sometimes a word or a song or a restaurant they loved, or stories at the Seder bring them back to us. All of that and more applies to my memories of my dad, Arnie Klotz. But now, daily, I see his Klotz Insurance, Wa 2-0173 pencils on my desk, in my car, and now, in my prayerbook. What smiles a pencil can bring on.
Thinking of you, dad...