Posted February 03, 2016 in Articles
Author: Carlo Wolff, Cleveland Jewish News
When Joel Fox was starting out in Cleveland as a graduate student in social work at Case Western Reserve University, he lucked out. As an intern on the commission on services to older persons of the old Jewish Community Federation, Fox met Robert Deitz, who was that commission’s incoming chairman.
That meeting, almost 40 years ago, served as a gateway to a mission the two men shared: helping people, particularly the elderly.
Fox, an Erie, Pa., native who is executive director of the Menorah Park Foundation, recalls Deitz with more than fondness. Like Phil Wasserstrom, a friend and Deitz disciple, Fox regards former Menorah Park trustee and resident Deitz with great respect and admiration.
Deitz, a Cleveland native who spent his final years at Menorah Park, the institution he served both as president and life trustee, died Jan. 13. He was 89.
He will long be remembered for the Sallie and Robert D. Deitz Piazza at Menorah Park, a 4,000-square-foot indoor piazza that opened in summer 2015.
Fox’s recollections of Deitz span the lofty and the mundane. He credits Deitz for taking him under his wing “and introducing me to the influential leaders in our community” who had done extensive work in elderly services. He also recalls the great Chinese food their families shared.
“He was my mentor, my guide, my protector for the issues that we were involved in,” Fox said. Deitz and his wife, Sallie, used to love to take the younger couple to dinner at Szechwan House, a long-defunct restaurant in Beachwood’s Pavilion Mall. (Sallie Deitz died in 2010.)
“ I remember many wonderful dinners.”
If he had to describe Deitz in one word, it would be “caring,” Fox said. Deitz loved the idea of matching people with specific skills to the institutions that needed those skills. Like Wasserstrom, Fox suggested Deitz functioned as a kind of one-man job corps, particularly when he was president of Jewish Vocational Service in the late 1980s.
Even after Condolidated Coatings Corp., a company where Deitz worked as export manager, was sold to RPM International in 1995, Deitz continued to work for RPM and stay “very connected to the business community,” Fox said.
“I miss him terribly,” Fox said. “A couple of weeks ago, I was walking down the hall in Menorah Park, in the direction where Bob used to be and the thought in my head was, oh, I’ll walk down this hallway so I can visit Bob for a minute. It took time to sink in I can’t do that anymore.”
Wasserstrom, a retired architect from Pepper Pike, effectively succeeded Deitz at both Jewish Vocational Service and at Menorah Park. Both were presidents of both.
Wasserstrom said Deitz was about five years older than him. They knew each other from Glenville, where both grew up (Wasserstrom is a Glenville High School graduate, where Deitz graduated from Cleveland Heights High School).
Wasserstrom’s mother admired Deitz, advising young Philip to emulate slightly older Robert.
“I should look at him as a role model and try to emulate him,” Wasserstrom’s mother advised him. “I spent the rest of my life trying to catch up to him, but I could never reach him. But he was always there as a true example of what a mensch is.”
Deitz introduced Wasserstrom to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland (then the Jewish Community Federation) and to Jewish Vocational Service. He also brought Wasserstrom onto the board of Menorah Park.
Wasserstrom noted Deitz was particularly interested in helping young people.
“He would always ask his friends who were involved in different vocations to help out this young man or that young man whom he had spoken to and needed some guidance,” Wasserstrom recalled. “He was just the kind of guy that went through life with a smile and a graciousness and engaged everybody he came in contact with both personally and professionally.”
Where Fox called Deitz “caring,” Wasserstrom came up with a different term.
“This is not normally a thing you say about a male, but he was the sweetest guy in the world.”
Original Article: http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/news/local_news/community-leader-deitz-recalled-for-caring-in-dealing-with-elderly/article_343a03ec-cac7-11e5-ade0-83e34da8704d.html