Obituary: Jerome Weidenfeld, 87, Former Custodian, Crafts Vendor at Campus Center

HOLYOKE – Jerome Weidenfeld, 87, passed away peacefully Aug. 12, 2014 at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

He was a first generation American, born Sept. 6, 1926, in the Bronx, New York City, to Fannie Goltzman and Saul Weidenfeld.

He now joins his late wife Barbara Louise (Diehl) Weidenfeld at the Jewish Community of Amherst Cemetery in Shutesbury.

He leaves behind three sons, Robert Weidenfeld of Davis, California, David Weidenfeld of Easthampton, and Mark 'Moshe' Weidenfeld of Brooklyn, New York, and their spouses, as well as four grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

Jerry attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City, but left before he graduated to enlist in the Army Air Force in 1944. He was later given an honorable discharge after a tragic car crash in which his mother and uncle were killed and his father was critically injured. At age 21, he married Evelyn Pytel and had a son, Robert.

Some years after Evelyn's death due to illness, he met and married Barbara in 1960 and had two sons, David and Mark "Moshe" and settled in Massapequa, Long Island. Jerry worked as a machinist/electrician and later as an industrial arts teacher in the New York City public schools. During these years, Jerry developed his skills as a craftsman, working with pottery, ceramics, and jewelry.

The family later relocated to Amherst, where Jerry worked at the TRW factory in South Hadley, and later as a custodian at the University of Massachusetts from 1979 to 1990. He sold his crafts at various art shows and he was a regular vendor at the campus center at UMass. In addition to his talent with crafts, Jerry loved music and taught himself to play the mandolin, guitar and most notably, the harmonica, which he continued to play until the last week of his life.

Jerome had a lifelong passion for issues of social justice and along with both of his wives had participated in such causes as the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam anti-war movement, and working for freedom for Soviet Jewry. He and Barbara were members of the Amherst chapter of the ACLU and taught ESL together at the UMass workplace education program in their later years. Jerome was also a skilled handyman, designing and helping to build a home in Shutesbury, where he and Barbara lived for many years.

Shortly after losing Barbara in February 2013, he became a resident at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.