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
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
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
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.
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.