I have always been a social person and enjoyed a lot of friends over the course of my life – Sue too. A number of them are really special, others were unique individuals that we met in some foreign locale and bonded with very quickly, one of the great joys of traveling. Some great friendships go back to childhood and teen years, others I interacted with in my career, some were terrific people I met through Sue.
Friendship for me has been one of the most enriching components of my life. I am presenting in this web page a parade of memorable people in our lives and in no particular ranking of order. I simply arranged the pictures like this.
I met Richie Cooper in Mike and Lou’s famous hot dog place in Bradley Beach, NJ, at age 16 and remained good friends for decades. Both of us avoided the Vietnam War draft; me through teaching, Richie by staying in college for seven years. We’re pictured in his Bridgeport, Conn. Area rented house near the end of the war.
Richie was similar to the William Hurt “Big Chill” ‘I’m into experience’ character. Rich followed Sue and I to Atlanta, went to West Georgia College for Humanistic Psychology for a few weeks, then joined the Peace Corp for a month in the Yap Islands in the south Pacific – had a vasectomy before going too.
He returned to marry a nice lady named Jeanne and they lived in Conyers, GA for a few years. They divorced and he returned to NJ – he and his sister Judy took over their father’s jewelry store in Asbury Park, NJ – the father retired to Florida. Rich married again; he and his second wife adopted a pretty Nicaraguan girl and settled into a nice life in an Asbury suburb.
I attended my 50th high school reunion three years ago in Newark, NJ and drove down to Asbury to look Richie and Judy up. The jewelry store, Cooper’s Creations on Cookman Avenue no longer existed. According to a neighboring entrepreneur, Rich closed the store seven years earlier and he did not know what became of the Cooper siblings. He said Judy now worked for Wegman’s supermarket but I did not have the time to run that lead down. So Rich, if you’re still out there, get in touch please.
I went to Weequahic High School in Newark, NJ, with Neil Markowitz with whom I always shared an absurd sense of humor. After college, Neil became a lawyer and worked in the Essex County Courthouse in downtown Newark. He married Helen, a short, cute, funny lovable woman and they visited Sue and I during our honeymoon on Martha’s Vineyard.
They brought their beloved dog with them and we had a great time lounging on our lawn or perusing sea food restaurants like, ironically, the Black Dog. Neil tragically passed much too young and Sue and I eventually lost touch with Helen.
I met Robb Miller, nee Bobby, when my family moved from Union, NJ, to Newark, NJ, to be closer to our family. I entered Bragaw Ave. School in the sixth grade and Bob and I and other kids explored our urban village like a rat pack with single working moms.
Robb and I avoided the draft by teaching in Newark – I moved to Atlanta and he returned to LA where he’d gone to college. He was starting what became a stellar architectural photography career when Sue and I visited with him in 1976. He and I have visited each other several times over the years and a few years ago drove up to the Bay area and back. Robb and Caryn Swann, a talented interior decorator, have built / rebuilt a number of beautiful homes in different pretty areas of the Valley and shared an interesting and comfortable life.
I first met Michael Willis (pictured below with Sash and I) after taking over the International Business Program at North Atlanta High and headed down to Montego Bay, Jamaica, to resurrect a joint business education program launched in the mid-1980’s. His style of teaching reminded me of my own and we forged an amazing joint educational program and a great friendship.
Willis was my able lieutenant in spreading the IBP program world-wide. He and his students joined my North Atlanta group in student exchanges to Frankfurt, Berlin, Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia, also Port-of Spain, Trinidad. I led seven of the nine annual student exchanges over ten years down to ‘Mo’ Bay’ and always stayed with Michael and his lovely wife Winsome, also a teacher, and two fine sons Brian and Dale. I watched the Willis boys grow up and become excellent young men and feel like their Uncle Arnie.
Michael affectionally called Sasha Ferris Buehler after the movie character because Sash reminded him of Ferris. The three of us are in Americus, Georgia, packing Sash up for his move to Daphne, Alabama for his first journalism job.
Sasha, around age seven, returned home from school one day to tell Sue and I at the dinner table that an Israeli kid was put in his class. Michael Shemtov was also placed in Sasha’s basketball league where we met his parents Moshe and Sherry that weekend and became good friends.
Moshe, who’d fought in two Israeli wars and sadly passed away a few years ago, was the ultimate standup guy. I admired his warmth and generosity and fearlessness; Sherry and Sue grew close and she often helped their daughter Ida with her homework.
I had the great pleasure of attending Ida’s marriage to Ilyan, her husband, at a beautiful kibbutz near Beersheba in Israel – they live in LA. Michael has grown up to become a successful restaurant developer; he is a major force in Mellow Mushroom and launched an exciting new chain called Butcher n’ Bee – opened Charleston and East Nashville units to date. I know you’re smiling down from heaven Moshe, my dear old drinking buddy
My father Bernard Heller had a younger brother Ralph – they each had a son – Ivan, pictured here with me, is three years younger. We were very close growing up until my family moved to Newark, then resumed our bigger cousin – younger cousin thing during college and until his death a few years ago from cancer. Ivan was an ace jewelry salesman, married Gail Heller and had a son, Jared, who is now twenty-six. Ivan is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a brother, especially a younger one. I miss you cuz.
Steve and Lynn Shine about 1990 based on the ugly brown corduroy jacket that I am wearing. A taste for corduroy is part of the genetic makeup of social studies teachers.
I started teaching at Northside / North Atlanta in November 1978. Steve Shine was in my first class and at the end of the year he approached me and said that we would be friends. And so, almost forty years later, we still are and are pictured with his wife Lynn – they live in Dunwoody with their son Michael who will graduate from UGA soon. I am very proud of how my former student has managed The Follie’s (strip joint) on Buford Highway in Atlanta into the highest day time gross in the world. Excellent work, A+.
Professor Andy Allen is the son of my good friend John Allen and one of the world’s leading researchers in the DNA of plankton. Andy, now a major researcher with the J. Craig Venter Human Genome Project, was engaged in post-doctoral work at Princeton University when Sue and I visited him about twelve years ago. Shortly after our visit, his beloved mother Cathy passed. John Allen recently suffered a serious injury, underwent a difficult operation, endured challenging therapy but is recovering quickly.
Dr. Fred Broder and his lovely wife Glenda are pictured with their first child Eric – they have two more handsome children Jordy and Shira. In 1975-76 I was assigned to the Atlanta Public School’s Ethnic Heritage Studies Project as a researcher. I shared a cubicle with Fred, at the time an assistant system coordinator, and we became good friends and forty years later, still are. I recently had dinner with proud grandpa Fred, a public speaker and management trainer, and grandma Glenda. Eric is now 41 and living in the Netherlands.
Sue and I visited Israel in 1976 and met the Panzer family spread across Tel Aviv and environs. Sue had told me all of the ‘crazy Uncle Murray’ stories whose famous line was when he didn’t like someone, he said; “That guy stinks a mile a minute.” Murray was married for nine days and never consummated according to family legend. He also had difficulty getting along with any member of the family including sisters and brothers, smoked furiously, insulted people regularly but was supposedly a great dancer, a redeeming asset.
I am pictured in Netanya, Israel with Sue’s cousin Cobie Metzger and Uncle Murray who upon meeting him immediately told us a very funny Jimmy Carter joke. We all laughed hard and loud until Murray started crying five seconds later – he’d gone from hard laughter to bawling in the snap of a finger.
“Aha,” I thought; “Uncle Murray is a manic-depressive. His whole life might have been different and better with a daily dose of lithium to keep him stable.”
Cobie Metzger, a medical doctor and Israeli patriot, is becoming a patriarch of the family in Israel. In 2015, as part of a mission to Israel, I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Cobie, his lovely wife and two adorable daughters, and the rest of the Panzer clan in the Metzger family home. For more information about my 2015 mission, please access:
Pictured above (1994) is Sue, Sash and I; also, my sister Bobbie and brother-in-law Arnold Polinsky. They have three dear children; Brett, 50; Craig, 48; Carrie, 46 and given that my family will be featured in following Photo Album web pages, I will save my glowing remembrances for later.
Left to right: Arnold and Sue Heller, Stuart Levy background, Ronnie Zandman, Susan Levy and Howard Zandman
Sue and Ronnie grew up in Sheepshead Bay four blocks from each other, graduated k-12 from the same schools, and did not know each other until each moved here with their husbands. We shared family camping trips, numerous New Year’s Eve’s with the Zandmans and friends Stuart and Susan Levy, and decades of annual Super Bowl Parties at the Zandmans. Howard has been a successful forensic accountant and a leader in his synagogue. Sue shares an April 10 birthday with Ronnie’s first grandchild Cora.
Kazuo and Shigeko Shimazu in Tahiti
Sue and I met Kazuo and Shigeko in Papeete, Tahiti when we sharing a day tour of the island. We were on the third leg of a New Zealand – Australia – Polynesia triangle; they were newly-weds marrying for the second time. We both moved on to Bora Bora and were placed in adjacent cabins where a Pacific tropical depression began to rain on us for four days. We re-discovered each other and took refuge from the deluge by daily drinking Chilean white wine and schmoozing. Nights were spent devouring fresh seafood at Wild Mary’s or the hotel restaurant.
I was honored in 1999 with a Kezai Koho Center study tour of Japan with 25 US, Canadian, and British social studies educators. The Shimazus took me to one of Tokyo’s best traditional Japanese restaurants, and also had me as an honored guest in their comfortable home north of Tokyo. I shared a glorious evening with Kazuo consuming the best sushi and sakes available in Japan.
For more information on the work of the Kezai Koho Center and sponsorship of the comprehensive study tour, please access:
Years later, while watching PBS News Hour report on Japanese real estate investment problems in Hawaii, Kazuo, representing his $5,000,000,000 a year construction / realty company, defended the firm’s actions in Waikiki’s overheated land market and claimed that they had been a good foreign investor and contributed to local charities too. If Mr. Shimazu says he acted honorably, you can take it to the bank for he is a class act.
The Close-Up Program in Washington, DC, in 1988, selected me to be a teacher – chaperone for a study group learning about the European Union which would expand dramatically the next few years with the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of Soviet communism. I was eager to observe how each former Soviet state was poised to move forward so Sue and I used the contacts I’d made in the EU tour and visited Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw, Riga, and Tallinn, Estonia, then drove across Scandinavia.
In Prague, former law professors under the old regime were striking out as private lawyers. A group showed us the city and highlights such as a five-hundred-year-old beer hall and a tour of the labyrinths below the bridges and along the Charles River.
Radik Shaihudtinov’s circle of pretty Karagonda lady friends
The Fulbright / ACIE agencies sent me to Karagonda, Kazakhstan, in 1988 on a teacher exchange. I was placed with Mr. Radic Shaihudtinov, a Teacher of English at School #49. I was very fortunate to be hosted by a young gentleman who was refined, intelligent, and kind. He was also handsome and cool and had a lovely girl-friend with a number of pretty female friends. Radic and his most hospitable circle all tried hard to show me a terrific time by partying almost every night. They succeeded wildly and for that I will be forever grateful to them.
For more information on the Fulbright teacher exchange, please access:
Please go on to Photo Album 4 – Arnold & Sue Heller: Our Extended Family.