Mark Zimkin fills in the gaps

Mark Zimkin fills in the gaps

As promised, Mark knew about my family research and eagerly took my call when I reached him after returning home from Pittsburgh. Actually, I should say he hadn't read the blog since he prefers not to use a computer. But Warren must have told him the relevant parts. We had a rambling two-hour conversation that covered quite a lot of ground in no particular order. Since the first call, we have had a followup conversation. I have a few notes from the calls but most of the following is from memory.

First, given our prior fears that he may have been deceased, it was wonderful to find him in more or less decent shape. He does have health issues, including some vision loss resulting from his chronic diabetes. Financially, he is not necessarily thriving but is well set up with his Canadian pension, co-ownership of the condo where he lives, and occasional work selling ad space for a Las Vegas publisher. As a Canadian citizen, he would have better access to health care there than in Nevada and he worries that he would have to return to Toronto if his health deteriorated. He says he loves the Southwestern climate and wants to stay put in Las Vegas.

How he landed in Vegas is a long story that I will not be able to do justice to, but it goes something like this. The last we knew of Mark was in the late 1980s when he visited Zimkin relatives in New York. At that time he continued to live in Toronto following the death of his mother and divorce from his wife. He was a merchant in women's accessories, running a showroom named Jonathan Marks and later another using his first and middle names, Mark Raymond. Scarves, purses, ladies' accessories.

I don't have a lot of detail about these businesses, but Mark says he remained in Toronto until 2008, when he joined up with a real estate publishing enterprise that put him on the road selling realtor ads across the western United States. He would go into a region, Tucson, say, and set up shop for a few weeks or months at a time, staying in residence apartments in Vegas, the Napa Valley, Taos, you name it. He drove a nice car and he loved the adventure of it, racking up memories wherever he went. Since I live in Oakland, Calif., he went into detail to recall the Buttercup Bar and Grill in Jack London Square.

Eventually the publishing business failed to pan out. Mark was on the road and short on options when he met by chance with a Canadian-Greek businessman, who hired him and set him up in Las Vegas to sell toilet systems to hotels. That lasted for a few years and unfortunately went belly up, as well. The apartment that he rented was available for sale at very low price in the distressed 2010 market. Mark's buddy from Toronto, Steve Rosen, agreed to go in on it with Mark, putting up most of the capital investment. Mark pays the condo fees and utilities, but otherwise has a very comfortable apartment. The Village Green borders right on the Las Vegas Country Club, he noted to me.

In addition to Mark's personal journey, our conversation covered new information I had for him about some of his Zimkin relatives, his memories of his father Arthur and mother Frieda Zimkin, his limited knowledge about his Rabinowitz family line, and more. Having just reconnected with his Safter cousins from Frieda's family, he was anxious to also reconnect with his Zimkin kin. I gave him the sad news that Elliot Wineburg, his father's cousin whom he had been close to, had passed away after an accident in 2011. However, two other cousins, Elliot's sister Isolde and Rebe Eisenstein, now 93, were alive and well. Mark also wanted to know about Rebe's sister Floral and especially her daughter Jeannine, but I said he would need to speak directly to Rebe. Since then, I had a wonderful call myself with Rebe and I put the two of them together for a direct conversation. I will have a short post about my call with Rebe coming up. For now, back to Mark.

He has many warm memories of his grandfather David Zimkin. Mark would visit his apartment near Yankee Stadium. He could not remember having been told anything about David's wife, his grandmother. Of course, by the time Mark was a boy, Sadie Rabinowitz Zimkin had been deceased for more than 20 years.

The one Rabinowitz family member that Mark has any memory of at all is Harrison Cannold. On several occasions, he went with his father to the store where Harrison worked, Maxie's Hats in Time Square. Once Harrison gave Mark a college sweatshirt as a gift. He recalls Harrison talking about his trips to Mardi Gras, somehow connected with the hat business.

Mark proudly recalled his father's intellectual bent. He thought that the classmate's inscription in Arthur Zimkin's Morris High yearbook said it best: "From A to Z, a man of letters." Mark recalled Arthur's photography passion. Every print was stamped Photo by Arthur J. Zimkin. Once on Mark's grandfather's birthday, Arthur filled every picture frame in the house with his images of David Zimkin.

Mark also recalled that Arthur's best friend was Edwin Schlossberg, the uncle of Caroline Kennedy's husband. Mark recalled that Arthur planned to pursue his many hobbies and interests after his retirement from the Post Office. That is why it was so shocking that he had a stroke and passed away overnight just two months after the retirement. Mark got the news by phone.

As much as he admired his father, Mark was really a mama's boy. Frieda carried on her life in New York for several years, but then moved to Toronto to be near Mark and his wife. She helped out in the business and lived in her own apartment. She was a great help and comfort to Mark until one day in 1977, getting out of a car and feeling weak, she said to Mark, "You know, mothers don't last forever." She was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Mark was by her side throughout. He brought her food that she said she craved—Chinese or Coney Island hot dogs—but then she couldn't eat. She did not hold out for even as long as the doctor had prepared them for.

After that time, he mostly fell out of contact with his Zimkin and Safter relations. Other than the 1987 visit to New York, Mark had fallen out of sight to both sides of his family. Now partly through my interest in his Rabinowitz relationship and also the active searching by Warren Safter, he has turned up alive and fairly well. All the parties—Mark, Warren and his two cousins, Rebe, and myself—are happy to be reconnected and intend to maintain the ties. The Safter cousins are planning a trip to Las Vegas for Spring 2014, and I expect to join them and Mark for a reunion there.