Max and Irving: The Sons of Abraham Rosenzweig

Abraham Rosenzweig was the oldest son of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig and my grandfather Isadore’s first cousin.  He was born in New York City on February 12, 1889, apparently the first of their children born in the US.  He served in the Navy before and during World War I, and he worked for a bakery after the war and thereafter.

Although I do not have any documentation for Abraham’s marriage, it seems that he probably married in Pennsylvania.  Rebecca Fagles, his wife, was born in Pennsylvania, and Abraham was stationed on the USS Georgia in Philadelphia in 1910.

Abraham Rosenzweig 1910 census US Navy

I assume that that was when and where they met and that they married around 1915 because although Abraham was living with his family and single as of the 1915 census, his first son Maxwell was born April 2, 1916.  Abraham and Rebecca’s second son Irving was born April 26, 1919, and in 1920, they were all living in Brooklyn, according to the 1920 US census.

UPDATE: I was able to find the marriage of Reba Fagles and Abraham Rosenzweig in 1915 on the Philadelphia marriage index.  I am assuming that that is the record for Abraham and Rebecca.

Abraham Rosenzweig and family 1920 census

Abraham Rosenzweig and family 1920 census

Abraham and Rebecca, known as Abe and Beck, lived in Brooklyn for the rest of their lives, where they raised their two sons, Max and Irving.  Max married Sylvia Herrick and had two sons, Joseph and Gerald.

Max and Sylvia Ross

Max and Sylvia Ross

Irving married Irene Rubenstein/Robbins and had two daughters, Jane and Arlene.  Gerry remembers his grandparents very well since he grew up in Brooklyn where they lived.  He remembers that his grandmother Beck served untoasted English muffins and used memorial candle holders as glasses.  Gerry named his two children for his grandparents, his son for Abe and his daughter for Beck.  Abe died in 1961, and Beck died in 1970.

Abe, Sylvia, Ray (Abe's sister) and Beck

Abe, Sylvia, Ray (Abe’s sister) and Beck

Here are some photographs of Max and Irving and one with their aunt Ray, an aunt I’ve otherwise been unable to locate.

Max and Irving Rosenzweig/Ross

Max and Irving Rosenzweig/Ross

Max and Irving with their aunt Ray

Max and Irving with their aunt Ray

I was able to get some background information about the lives of Max and Irving from Gerry and Arlene.

Max and Sylvia settled in Brooklyn, where Max first was in the egg and poultry business and then in the business of reconditioning steel drums for storing oil.  At some time after World War II while doing business with the army, Max changed his last name from Rosenzweig to Ross, believing that he would have more success with a name that was not obviously Jewish.  Sometime thereafter Irving also changed his last name to Ross for similar reasons and also because their mother Beck did not like the idea of the two brothers having different last names.

Arlene told me that her father Irving had met her mother Irene when her uncle Max went to Sylvia’s house while they were dating and brought his younger brother Irving with him.  One of Sylvia’s friends was there and arranged for Irving to meet her younger sister Irene.  For Irving, it was love at first sight, but not for Irene.  For a year, Irving pursued her.  Irene had joined the Navy, one of the first ten women to become a WAVE, and Irving, himself in the US Army, placed an ad in the Stars and Stripes to find her and to get her attention.  Eventually, Irene agreed to date him and fell in love with him as well.

They were married in 1945, and according to Arlene, to his dying day, her father would do anything to make Irene happy.  Irving and Irene  Irene and Irving lived at 41 Kew Gardens Road, Queens, and their two daughters were born at Kew Gardens General Hospital.  Irving owned a share in a successful hardware business.

In 1957, Irving and Irene and their daughters went to visit Irene’s parents, who had moved to the Miami, FL, area.  Irene was so taken with life in South Florida that within days after returning to Brooklyn, Irving sold his share in the hardware business and bought three tickets to Miami for Irene and his daughters, coming down a few months later himself once his business matters were resolved.  He was, as Arlene said, determined to make Irene as happy as possible.

Within five years, Irving, a man who never graduated from high school, had obtained a license to sell insurance and had established a very successful insurance brokerage business.  He was able to provide his family with a large, custom-built house and a comfortable lifestyle.  Irving and Irene remained in the Miami area thereafter and only occasionally would they return to the New York area.

Sadly, their lives would be marked by tragedy.  In 1968, Irving was admitted to Baptist Hospital in Miami for congestive heart failure.  While he was being admitted, Irene and Arlene went to get something to eat, and while driving down North Kendall Drive, where Baptist Hospital is still located, they were hit head-on by a minibus going northbound on U.S. 1, South Dixie Highway.  The minivan had defective brakes and  had skidded across the median.  Both Irene and Arlene suffered severe injuries, and Arlene underwent numerous surgeries and was laid up for a substantial time after the accident.  For some period of time all three members of the family shared one hospital room.

Arlene and Irving Ross August1968

Arlene and Irving Ross August1968

Not long after the accident, Irving was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and died at age 51 on August 5, 1970.  Irene was only 49 when he died.  She had to go to work to support herself and her children and became a purchasing agent at Florida International University, where she worked for many years.  She died January 16, 2009, at age 88.

Irene Ross in 2006

Irene Ross in 2006

Arlene Ross

Arlene Ross

Max also died at a prematurely young age.  His wife Sylvia had a number of medical problems, and while accompanying her for treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in November, 1975, Max had an aneurysm and died.  He was only 59 years old. Sylvia lived more than twenty years after Max died.

Sylvia Ross

Sylvia Ross

The two sons of Abraham and Rebecca, Max and Irving, thus had many parallels in their lives.  Both were big strong men over six feet tall, both had changed their name to Ross, both had had two children and long marriages to women to whom they were devoted, and both had died before they were sixty years old. Gerry said he speaks to his father daily and has every day since he died in 1975; Arlene also spoke adoringly of her father.  I could tell in speaking with both Gerry and Arlene that each of them loved their fathers dearly and want their memories preserved.   I hope this blog will help to do that.

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