Both my grandfather Albert Heller and father Bernie Heller died at age forty.  That I might too experience that fate influenced me to make every moment in life count.  So, when I turned forty, I celebrated as if it might be my last year.

If you’ve not viewed the fortieth birthday video, I suggest that you please do for it will serve as a prequel of sorts to this web page.

Cousin Ivan Heller and his wife Gail prepare to roast me.

I had been to two fortieth birthday parties before working with Sue to organize mine.  The wives, supposedly to add an adult element to the affair, both foolishly hired hot strippers who nakedly climbed all over the husbands who were most uncomfortable that their mothers, mother in laws, and WIVES were present and scrutinizing.

I told Sue that strippers were taboo and we would create the sexual element – I dressed as a male stripper and Sue a Playboy Bunny and it worked – we controlled this factor and not a paid performer.  Costume parties encourage people to get outsides themselves and my family members and friends surely did.

You get the point from the photo.  Anyway, by the time age 50 rolled around, I’d become a more sedate and middle-aged guy and welcomed a nice, normal birthday party that was attended by family members and many good friends.  My son Sasha, age 17 at the time and a journalist today, wrote the following poem and invitation – The Big Five-Oh which I treasure.

Bring your golden memories to the Suite

For a night of dancing; you deserve a treat.

From the bubbly cocktails to the delicious dinner,

Share a festive evening with our ex-hippie winner.

A baby boomer is finally coming of age,

Tonight Arnie “Doc” Heller takes a front stage.

We’ll dance; we’ll sing; we’ll have a roast,

We’ll raise our glasses to a champagne toast.

Come join us as Arnie turns The Big Five-Oh,

And play your part in this gala birthday show.

The birthday party took place on Feb. 24, 1996, at an Embassy Suites ballroom located in Perimeter Center Office Park in Dunwoody.  The catering department surpassed our expectations.

My good friend Fred Broder, a popular public speaker and management trainer, served as the Master of Ceremonies.

My late wife Sue and son Sasha, who now lives in Austin, Texas, organized the party and served as greeters.  Sue passed November 21, 2008; Sash is a journalist and Sports Desk Team Leader with Gatehouse Media.

Pictured below from left to right are (row 1): Glenda Broder, Ronnie Zandman, Howie Zandman, Susan Levy, Stuart Levy; Row 2 standing: Fred Broder, Steve Shine, Bruce and Shelly Gaynes.

As Sasha wrote, we ate and sang and danced.  Enthusiastic conga line members include from left to right me, Arnold Heller, the late Cathie Allen, John Allen, Sue, Shelley Gaynes, and Dom Fusco who produced the 1990 “One Moment in Time” video of the Northside Tour Show trip to Russia and Ukraine.

My friend John Allen and I have an amazing number of life parallels: we’re both social studies teachers; we were married to beloved English and Reading teachers who have each passed, and have one son whom we adore.

I blew out the candles in two tries and made a wish / prayer that unfortunately was not answered.  Ten years earlier I blew out the forty candles on the first try and my wish was promptly granted. You win some – you lose some.

My family and friends are gathered around the cake for toasts and good cheer (below).  Pictured from left to right are first cousin Ivan Heller – his wife Gail has arm around him but is obscured by Charlie Fusco, Dom’s wife – Sue, Dom Fusco behind her, me, Cathie Allen, Stewart Karpel, John Allen, John Diehl, Joel Borrin.  Lee Friedman’s head rises slightly above Joel’s right shoulder – there is a slight glimpse of Joan Friedman to the right of Joel’s arm and part of Doug Frutiger’s sleeve.  Finally, there is Shelly Gaynes and Marc Auerbach, my brother-in-law.

This wonderful party will end shortly after this picture but the memories continued and are now captured in this web page.

It was a great pleasure opening my many lovely gifts the next morning at breakfast.

I have been lucky to celebrate in special ways the many milestones of my life.