Millie and Sy Gordon
A Passover Invitation Opens the Door to a Lifetime of Love
As Passover approached in 1942, seventeen-year-old Millie Mattis and her mother, Sarah, issued an invitation through the local USO office in Los Angeles, asking five servicemen to celebrate the holiday with them. When the day came, most of the young guests talked and laughed with their hosts, but one young soldier remained very quiet throughout the evening.
That young man, Seymour "Sy" Gordon, piqued Millie's interest. "Still waters run deep," said Millie, laughing recently in her home on the Eisenberg Village campus of the Jewish Home. For his part, Sy confided, "I was quiet because I was smitten with her." After dating for a year, the couple was married. Now, 67 years later, Millie is still enchanted by Sy's quiet and gentlemanly demeanor, and he is still quite obviously smitten with her.
Millie and Sy share similar backgrounds. The children of Eastern-European immigrants, both were born in Brooklyn, Sy in 1922 and Millie in 1923. And, each dealt with tragedy early in their lives. When Sy was 13, his father passed away, followed by his mother five years later. At seven, Millie, along with her mother and brother, Marvin, were forced by the Depression to move in with her grandparents in Los Angeles. Then Millie's mother became ill, and the children were sent to separate foster homes for four years, until the family could be reunited.
Sy was in his freshman year of college when World War II began. He joined the Air Force and trained to be a B-17 bomber pilot, serving for four years, which included the time he was stationed in Los Angeles. After he married Millie in 1943, they traveled from base to base for almost two years, returning to Los Angeles at the end of the war.
Sy found work as a salesman, and Millie as a dental assistant. They had two children, Bruce and Barbara. In their late forties, the couple purchased a PIP printing franchise, which they ran for 20 years. "This was the happiest time of our lives," says Millie with a smile, adding quickly, "except for when our children were born." They retired to Marina Del Rey, where they enjoyed walking on the beach and traveling. Eventually they moved to the Westside area near Santa Monica.
Then the couple began to experience health problems. Millie was diagnosed with lung cancer, which she successfully conquered. Sy began having difficulty with his balance, falling frequently. When Sy's doctor advised him to stop driving, he felt a severe loss of independence.
In 2007, the Gordons moved to the Jewish Home. Millie moved in first, when Sy was in the hospital. "The Home shone like a diamond," she said. "Everything was taken care of for us." Their new life at the Home includes enjoying arts and crafts; Millie loves to knit, and Sy has started painting. They also greatly enjoy the Friday afternoon discussion group and Shabbat services led by Rabbi Rita Hertzberg.
Living at the Home has given the Gordons a great sense of belonging and contentment. Sy feels that "the Home is very haimish." For Millie, "I feel uplifted by a feeling of camaraderie. Everyone here understands ‘Jewish.'"
Millie and Sy also agree that community support of the Jewish Home is vital. "There are people here that are very needy," said Sy. "Donating to the Home is very important, and volunteering is one of the best things you can do." Millie added, "At the Home, you're taken care of, whether you have money or not. It gives you peace of mind."