Every day, Joe Resnick would drive himself to his favorite haunt, the YM-YWHA of Union County, to have lunch and participate in the seniors’ programs. He parked in a reserved space allocated to him in February 2009 as a 100th birthday gift.
Seeing him walking through the halls, it was hard to comprehend that more that 60 years had passed since he served as the Union Y’s president.
Resnick, the man friends called “Gentleman Joe,” passed away on Sept. 30, 2011, at the age of 102, dapper and charming to the end.
He died in his apartment at Winchester Gardens a retirement community in Maplewood, from an intestinal infection.
Until just two years ago, he lived alone in his house in Elizabeth. He had shared that home with his wife of 67 years, Gertrude, who died at the age of 90 in 1998, and their three children.
Resnick, who was born in Brooklyn and moved to Elizabeth as a young man, was president of the Y from 1942 to 1944. As a past president in good standing, he was a board member for life and — after retiring from his highly successful clothing business when he was 94 — attended almost every meeting until his move.
He was also a devoted supporter of the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, and — with his wife — of Hadassah.
Resnick’s name is emblazoned on the van that transports seniors to programs at the Y, together with those of his friends Sonya Oshman and Lisa Reibel. Bryan Fox, the Y’s executive vice president, said that the three donors’ contributions for one year were combined to provide the vehicle.
For the Union Y, it was a second heavy loss in seven days. One week earlier, also at 5 a.m. on a Friday morning, Y stalwart Sol Kramer died at the age of 91.
Fox, who had worked closely with both men since he came to the Y in 1986, said, “It really is like the ending of an era.” Y program director Jani Jonas said simply, “Joe was one of my favorite people.”
‘Very classy guy’
Resnick’s children, grandchildren, and great-children had gathered about him in the last few days, aware that his strength was fading. His daughter Phyllis Herschenfeld of Riverdale in the Bronx, told NJ Jewish News that in the months before his death, her father was in great shape, still attending exercise classes and reading two newspapers a day. Just after Hurricane Irene hit on Aug. 28, he complained of severe stomach upset, but tests showed no underlying illness.
“I think it might have been from putting his dentures in water [straight from the tap] during the period when there was a boiled water alert,” as a result of the storm, she said.
She realized that he was nearing the end when he asked her to sign checks for him. “He had always insisted on controlling everything himself,” Herschenfeld said. In an obituary, she mentioned that right up until that point, “he would be sought out by all for advice and insight into world affairs and the economic issues.”
“Never one to make hasty decisions, he was intelligent and wise when he finally did respond. Gentleman Joe, always well dressed, well groomed, and well informed, was a very classy guy.”
Ruth Brewster, also a past president of the Y, had known Resnick since she was a little girl, through the decades when her father, Harry Lebau, was executive director of the Y. “Joe was the ultimate gentleman, chivalrous and kind, and handsome to the end,” she said. “And wherever he was, whatever he was doing, he was always contented.”
Resnick was predeceased by his brother Jack. In addition to Herschenfeld, he is survived by his daughter Barbara Goldblatt, his son Henry, 10 grandchildren and their spouses, and 18 great-grandchildren, as well as nieces and nephews and their families.
The funeral was at the family gravesite at Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Iselin.
A Joseph Resnick Fund was established for his 100th birthday at the Union Y.