Today, having just returned to Rockaway after two months away from home, I decided it was time to call and arrange an appointment for a routine dental check-up with my dentist of many years, Dr. Gerald Zweifler. To my great sorrow, the receptionist who answered the phone gave me the devestating news that the doctor had passed away just six weeks ago on St. Patrick’s Day. I was stunned to hear that this joyful, energetic, athletic (known for his tennis skill), and enthusiastic member of our Rockaway professional community had, indeed, died in the early morning hours of March 17th. It seemed incomprehensible.
I had the good fortune to be a patient of Dr. Zweifler during most of the four decades I have lived here on the beach. While he was a bit older than I, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of years that seperated us in age. He always gave the lie to the notion that it was a bad thing to go to the dentist. If you didn’t laugh when you were in his cheerful presence, you had either pre-deceased him, or you simply weren’t paying attention to his jocular wit. With his cheerful smile and brightly colored Hawaiian shirts, I always felt he should have been a co-star in some television sitcom. Wasn’t there an amusing dentist in the old Bob Newhart show? Doctor Jerry could have filled that bill perfectly.
But Dr. Zweifler was more than amusing. He was kind, he was gentle, and he was very intelligent, offering bright conversation on every subject from politics to the arts, from sports to the economy. It seemed that everything interested him, but nothing more than his cherished family. He was a loving husband who often spoke affectionately of his wife of many years, Judith. He was so proud of his talented daughters, Michelle and Lauren. And he loved his work as a dentist! When I had what was to be my last appointment with the doctor on the afternoon of this past January 10th, he told me he was thinking of investing in a very expensive new technology for his office that would allow dental crowns to be computer generated and completed in perhaps a single visit to the office. He said he had no interest in retirement, remarking “What would I do?” His only hesitation about upgrading his equipment was expressed when he said: “I’m in my late ’60’s. You never know what can happen.” That prophecy has sadly been fulfullied. The doctor’s many Florida tennis partners in Boca West remembered him in an obituary in the March 25th New York Times. It read, in part:
“A bright light went out on March 17th, 2007… One of the truly great guys. Loved and respected by his friends…We have great sadness in our hearts. May you rest in peace. May your wonderful backhand stay with you forever. Always a class act, we will never forget you.”
To that I could only add, “Amen!” With deepest sympathy to the family and friends, David Dow Bentley III Rockaway Park, New York www.ThePeoplesCritic.com.
(The Wave 5.4.07)