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By Renette Torres, Courtney McEntee, Lynn Nilsen, Shirley Chapman, Helma Smith, Marlene Bolla, Stefi Rudolph, Becky Funk, Mona Wolters, Velma Tiffany
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Renette Torres et al.
All rights reserved.
Where do I start to tell you about the beginning of the end?
Someone once said to me that a heart attack and mandatory retirement are the beginning of the end. I have always thought it was a new beginning, and so it was! I am going to tell you just a little about the real beginning.
I will go back in time briefly in order for you to get a glimpse of Danny and me. Danny was born in New York City to Rose Alhadeff Torres and David Torres; he was the oldest of four children. His siblings were all born in California. My mother-in-law, Rose, was a quiet, petite, pretty lady born on the Isle of Rhodes, one of the many beautiful islands owned by Greece. My father-in-law was born in Salonika, on the mainland of Greece (because of the very long drive, it's one of the few places on our vast planet Danny and I never visited). He was a charming-soft spoken, nice-looking man who adored his family. His occupation was a florist.
Rose and her two brothers came to the United States before World War II. Somehow, despite the war, she received news from Rhodes about her relatives. Much later, after Danny and I were married, she told me a story that made chills run up my spine. She somehow heard a horrific story about when the Germans occupied her beautiful island during WW II, the Nazis chained all her relatives (and many others, too) into small boats, and after riddling the boats with bullets, sent them to their doom in the Mediterranean Sea. You may ask, why did this happen? The Nazi regime tried to get rid of all Jews from the countries they occupied.
Danny's parents were Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors emigrated from Spain to Greece, and so his ancestors were all originally from Spain. During the Spanish Inquisition, the Jewish people were forced to join the Catholic Church or leave the country, and if they stayed and didn't convert to Catholicism they were killed. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain took place in 1492, a terrible time in the history of mankind.
It was in New York City that Rose met David, (They never knew each other in Greece.) They married and had their first child Danny there, in 1923, then journeyed to California when he was two years old. The Torres family settled in Oakland. As a young man, Danny served as a navigator in the US Army Air Corps during the war. Danny later graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Accounting and Business Administration.
I was born June 14, 1929, in San Francisco, that year was the beginning of the Great Depression. My mother, Renée, was an only child born to Max and Henrietta Levy. She was very spoiled, and most definitely a snob. My grandparents, as I recall, were very social, and fun-loving people. Grandma, with her outgoing personality, had lots of friends, unlike my mother, who was cold, self-centered, always had a negative attitude, and was extremely difficult to get along with.
My dad was an attorney named Harold Abraham. He specialized in criminal law and was well known throughout the San Francisco criminal court system. After school I would sometimes go to the courthouse, just to see and hear him in action. He always told me I had a great gift of gab and said I would make a good trial lawyer and could train in his law office. Dad and I had a special relationship. He was smart, warm, loving, and had a great time joking around. He always enjoyed a good laugh, and all of my friends adored him. On the other hand, none of my friends liked my mother who was cold with a rigid demeanor, for example; she never allowed her children to call her "Mom" We had to call her "Mother." She thought the word mom was disrespectful.
San Francisco is where my two brothers and I grew up. I played girls' basketball, volleyball, and was active in the Silver Blades, a speed-skating club that skated on the ice at the famous Sutro Baths. Unfortunately, that landmark has long been torn down.
After I graduated high school in San Francisco, we moved to Piedmont, a small, affluent city in the East Bay, and I attended the California College of Arts and Crafts, and graduated with a BA degree in Liberal Arts. I joined a young person's group called "Guys and Gals," a social group of young people that met once a month, located in Oakland, where Danny lived. I had seen him there but we never spoke.
The first time I actually met and talked with Danny was on a blind date with his brother, Jack, and my friend Barbara Berman. We went to the Grand Lake Theater to see "Oliver Twist." The year was 1951. Danny seemed quiet, very intelligent, but a little shy. He was definitely a handsome young guy. We saw each other frequently thereafter and after several months of getting to know each other, he proposed to me. At that time, I was also seeing a young man named Ivan, who was from Los Angeles, and an heir to a large pasta company. He was "rich" and hung out with his close friends, Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie—you know, the Hollywood set. He had nothing on me, I was friends with Shirley Temple and would see her every Easter vacation at her home in the Desert Inn in Palm Springs. My folks and her folks enjoyed mutual friends that owned the Wonder Date Garden and one of the largest orange groves in that area. My dad raised Great Danes for stud purposes and, showed them at dog shows; Shirley was enamored with them. Shirley and I were the same age, around twelve when we met. We wrote to each other often.
My mother loved Ivan because he brought her gifts, and she preferred the wealthy boy to Danny, who was from a family of modest income, (Remember, I told you she was a snob!) When I first met Danny, he was working at The House of Flowers in San Francisco as a florist, and he was also their accountant. This shop had no connection with his father's flower shop in Oakland, although Danny had worked in his father's business from the age of eight. At the same time he also delivered newspapers by bicycle with childhood friends who later would become his "poker club" after high school, college and the military service. They met every month their entire adult life. There are now only two guys left out of a group of eight lifelong friends.
Danny never brought my mother any gifts, like Ivan had done. Her nose was so far up in the air it made me sick. She didn't care for Danny (he didn't come from wealth!) She really wanted me to marry Ivan, who had a very outgoing personality. Danny was quiet, a deep thinker, serious minded, exceptionally smart and had a calm disposition, much better for me because I was the comic—constantly talking, always kidding around and having fun. I loved to make him laugh. He was my "straight" man.
Despite my mother's objections, Danny and I married in April, 1952. We began our life together in a little apartment in Oakland; we lived there for six months, and then bought a tract-house in Pleasant Hill in the East Bay.
Later, after the completion of our custom-built home in Burton Valley, an upscale neighborhood in Lafayette, California, we resided there for 14 years. We raised three children: Kenny, Cathy, and Rhonda. We had a fabulous social life there. Tennis was our passion, and, being avid players, we joined Round Hill Country Club in Alamo, where we had a huge circle of friends. It seemed we were always partying.
Our residential journey in 1975, after the children were out of school, was to continue south to the Almaden Valley. Danny was Chief Financial Officer of a super market company called Nob Hill Foods; the corporate offices were located in Gilroy, a lengthy commute from Lafayette. The move to Almaden would make the commute shorter. There we joined the Saratoga Golf and Country Club, where we played tennis and again had a huge group we socialized with. Danny and I also belonged to Carmel Valley Racquet Club, where we would go every weekend we were in town, to play nine sets of tennis every Saturday, and nine sets on Sunday. We did that so often, we decided to buy a condo in Forest Grove (Pacific Grove). It was easier to stay in our own place rather than a hotel. It was always spectacular down there. The people were fabulous and it was great getting away on weekends! Such fun and energetic times! We were always "on the go." You might say we enjoyed "the club life."
Only twenty-one years ago
Our "moving south" journey continued to Ridgemark Golf and Country Club in Hollister, about forty-five miles east of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This would be only a twenty minute commute for Danny to drive to his Gilroy office. It was at Ridgemark that we built a lovely home overlooking the seventh fairway of one of the two beautiful golf courses, where the weather is always fantastic.
I still had my "It's Time" watch and clock business, which I started in 1981. I was on the road most of the time, designing, importing and marketing to all the major department stores across the nation, hotels, gambling casinos, and so many other businesses. Danny and I were traveling often by this time—business trips for him as well as watch fairs for me in Basal, Switzerland, and Hong Kong.
Though Ridgemark had two lovely golf courses, we were not fans of the golfing scene yet, that would happen later ... there was plenty of time for that. Also available were six new tennis courts, just perfect for us. We planned to move in September 1990. Danny, had a heart attack in June of 1990, and was in frail condition. I had to have a second arthroscopic knee surgery. Despite our physical conditions, we moved into our new home. The weather in this central California location is almost perfect, a very well kept secret. Many people think it is too hot; actually it has nice warm days and cool evenings, an ideal temperature most of the year for tennis, golf and outdoor living. I've always called it "God's little acre."
Danny shared his high-level position with an energetic, innovative board of directors. There were nine in all, of which Danny was a crucial part. Danny, because of his financial position, was called the "NO" man, doing what he liked best, controlling the finances. We were stockholders of the company, so Danny kept a keen eye on the monies spent for the company as well as the park.
Michael, the CEO, built a fantastic employee's park. It was beautiful. It included two tennis courts, an Olympic-size swimming pool, an exercise room, barbeque facilities, and gorgeous gardens. Basketball courts adorned a modern gymnasium where the corporate officers team, Danny included, played the different store's basketball teams. It was fun cheering on our guys. We often invited friends down on weekends to play mixed doubles. We barbequed after playing tennis, it was such fun. Our friends always wanted to be asked again. Michael called this fantastic employee park "Tree Haven." It was, indeed a haven.
Michael went on to build a theme park with a huge lake, rides for children including a train, and many restaurants for families to come and enjoy. It was extremely costly! It is now a huge tourist attraction and owned by the city of Gilroy.
What a birthday!
It was June 14, 1990 (my birthday) at almost 3:00 in the afternoon. I had just gotten home from an exciting sales appointment with a large industrial corporation that wanted their logo on several styles of my watches and clocks. I was thinking "what a great birthday present." That order really made my day, but my bubble was soon to burst.
It was just a few months prior to moving from Almaden to Ridgemark, when the phone rang. I picked it up and, trying to be funny, I said, "It's your nickel, shoot!" To my surprise it was Danny on the other end of the line, saying, "Renette, now don't be alarmed—I've had a heart attack. I'm at Good Samaritan Hospital in the cardiac unit. Don't worry—I'm plugged in and they tell me I'm doing fine."
Danny was a very soft spoken, always calm, and easy-going kind of guy, but his conversation was labored and extremely weak. That frightened me. I picked up my car keys, hurriedly flew into the garage, jumped in, and started the car. I drove to the hospital, being very worried about my husband and if he was really okay like he had told me. This was not the sort of birthday present I expected, nor wanted.
When I walked into the hospital, I very nervously asked one of the pink ladies where the cardiac area was. I stopped at the nurses' station and asked again if anyone knew where Dan Torres was. They directed me to his bed in the heart unit. I walked in and there he was, all wired up, with a flashing heart monitor lit up, tubes and IVs everywhere. I bent down and gave him a soft kiss. He opened his eyes and gave me his sweet smile. I tried hard to hold back the tears, and then I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turning around, it was our doctor. He motioned to me to follow him out of the room to the hallway. He then told me of Danny's condition. He explained the attack was serious but assured me he would be fine, with proper diet, therapy and exercise. He also said Danny must retire from his CFO position at Nob Hill Foods. It was a job that he loved so much, but evidently the responsibility and importance of his position weighed heavily on him without his realizing it, and gave him too much stress.
I returned home from the ordeal of Danny's heart attack late in the evening. The sight of him, so pale, and plugged into all the monitors, plus the worrisome stress I had been given that day left me totally exhausted. I bent down and hugged our two black and white Shih Tzu dogs, Chip and Dale, then absolutely collapsed into a chair in the den, and fell fast asleep. I was startled awake by a telephone call from the cardiologist telling me that he was going to do an invasive procedure on Danny that evening to unclog his artery. He said if I wanted to be there, then I should come right away. It was 10:00 p.m. then, but I grabbed my keys and jumped back into the car and drove to the hospital. When I arrived, they were just taking him into the surgical unit. I kissed him and said I would be there when he woke up. He was in a dopey state, so I didn't know if he realized I was even there. I went and got a cup of coffee, my head reeling from the day's events. I fell asleep in the waiting room and awakened when I felt the doctor touch my hand. He told me Danny was fine and that I should go home and rest. Breathing a sigh of relief, I drove home and went to bed.
The morning after his heart procedure, I called to find out how he was. The nurse said he was resting. When I got to the hospital, poor Danny had a very heavy brick wrapped in a towel placed on his groin area. Evidently they had a dynamite time trying to stop the bleeding from the incision they had to make, to insert the tube into the artery that goes into the heart. After several days in the hospital, he was ready to come home and begin his new life. I was told that he may become depressed, but that goes away soon. Danny never was depressed. He was always so cool and calm about everything, even his own heart condition.
With proper eating habits, several weeks of exercise and therapy at the hospital rehab unit, we would be able to resume our normal life style minus his job at Nob Hill Foods. When the time was right, he would be interviewing candidates for his Financial Vice President's position, the candidate to be approved by the Board of Directors.
A healthy specimen
Danny had always been very healthy and in superb physical shape, even as he aged. He was a basketball player when he was young. He had strong arms and legs, a bit hairy, had a great physique, very nice looking with a healthy head of hair. What I called my "Hard-Body." He was very attractive and people we met all over the world would often comment about how much he looked like Spencer Tracy. He looked terrific in his tennis shorts and was such a handsome man when he wore his tuxedo. He looked good in everything he put on, even a Japanese kimono he had to sport on one of our trips to Japan at a dinner party with some Japanese friends. He looked just as great without clothes.
The only other time I remembered that he had to go to the hospital was when he had kidney stones, and I remember how much pain he was in then. He had the flu occasionally, and once had a slight case of the shingles, but got rid of them quickly. He was very lucky. One time on a business trip to Hong Kong, he complained he didn't feel very well, and thought he had the "Hong Kong" flu so Catherine Lam, the woman who owned the watch factory I did business with, told Danny she was taking him to the hospital. The Chinese doctor at the hospital, who spoke excellent English, said to Danny, "You don't have the Hong Kong flu, you have the US flu." We all laughed, thought it was really funny. Whatever flu bug it was, he got over it quickly.
Retired, but not expired
Danny was doing well, and was back to playing tennis, maybe not quite as vigorously as before, but still a top "A" club player. When we played doubles, because he was a lefty, he always had me playing the backhand court, the left side, close to the net. I'm right-handed, thus our strength was always down the middle, and we were a good competitive team. After we were settled in our Ridgemark home, we played tennis several times a week. We still had our weekend condo in Pacific Grove, and were still playing at the Carmel Valley Racquet Club on weekends. I played on the ladies' inter-club team for five years. Danny played on the men's ladder. Soon, however, we did start playing golf. I really liked it (today, I am obsessed), but he hated it. Danny decided to buy a mountain bike and explore San Benito County's beautiful countryside. He would ride for hours. He would come home and tell me how beautiful it was and how fantastic he felt after several hours sitting on that tiny little seat. Shortly after discovering the scenic hills and terrain of our area, he invested in a road bike, making him go faster, and, it had an even smaller seat. It actually was a racing bike.
Excerpted from Widows Peek by Renette Torres, Courtney McEntee, Lynn Nilsen, Shirley Chapman, Helma Smith, Marlene Bolla, Stefi Rudolph, Becky Funk, Mona Wolters, Velma Tiffany. Copyright © 2013 Renette Torres et al.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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