by Annette van de Kamp-Wright, Editor of the Jewish Press
During the summer of 2013, Penny Endelman and Jewish Community Center Executive Director Mark Martin began talking about how to honor the memory of Penny’s husband Randy. Randy had passed away in February of that year, and, Penny wanted to know, would it be possible to place a bench by the front entrance of the Pennie Z. Davis Childhood Development Center?
Martin agreed to look into it; the family gave it some more thought, and decided the bench in question should be inside the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home instead.
“At the time,” Martin said, “it seemed like a simple task, but it took several months to get it accomplished. What should the bench look like? Where should it come from, where should it end up? This, after all, could not be just any bench; it had to be special and meaningful.”
Cue Renee Corcoran, Director of the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society. When Martin realized there was a cobweb-covered old bench in the JCC basement, she was able to tell him where it came from.
“When the Riekes shul was moved to the front of the JCC, one bench didn’t fit,” she said. “We are delighted it now has a new purpose.”
“I had walked by it probably hundreds of times,” Martin said, “but I had no idea it had this much historical significance. I am so grateful to the NJHS, and Renee, for knowing its history, and for agreeing to let us use it.”
Martin went back to Penny, and told her there was a bench that was big enough for the entire family, and could be painted in any design she wanted. The family agreed, and with the help of the maintenance staff it was fully restored. Next, professional artist Kelli Zaug painted it; images suggested by Penny came to life, and the bench was ready to be installed.
Randy Endelman was an Omaha native, a Central High graduate and a successful attorney. He left behind a loving family and many, many friends. Randy’s bench was unveiled on Friday, Feb. 28, almost to the day a year after his death, and everyone will be able to enjoy it. It’s located between the front desk and the Husker wall, so next time you’re at the Home, stop by and sit a while. It’s a conversation piece, it’s beautiful, it’s inviting, and it’s a fitting way to remember a man who was “a friend to everyone.”