Melvin Rosenberg was born on December 28, 1927 in Chicago to Lester Rosenberg and Rita Shain, who were also both born in Chicago.  Lester worked at the post office, and Rita cared for their three children: Audrey, Melvin and Wanda.  Rita never worked outside the home except during the war years, when she took a job at a candy factory.

Melvin graduated from grade school and went on to high school, where he took as many business classes as he could.  When he graduated, he got a job in the office at a knitting mill.  When the war broke out, he joined the navy, but he was eventually discharged due to stomach problems.  Melvin had various jobs throughout his life and usually worked in shipping and receiving, as an order-filler, a stock clerk, or in maintenance.

In 1950, he decided to go on a “working vacation,” and traveled through Iowa, South Dakota and Wyoming for three months, picking up jobs as he went.  He really enjoyed that trip and talks about it still.  He was tempted to stay longer and go further, but he was worried about his mother, so he went back.  On the day he returned to Chicago, he discovered that it was his younger sister, Wanda’s, wedding day.  There was also a letter waiting for him from the army, telling him to report for duty for the Korean War.  He then had to try to explain to the draft board that he had already served in the army during WWII, but that he had been discharged due to poor health.  He was eventually successful in clearing the situation up and then proceeded to get various jobs around the city of the type he had had before.

Melvin never married as a young man, he says, because he “never found the right woman.”  He loved making things with his hands, going on trips, and playing poker and bingo.  He also loved to cook, a skill he learned from his mother, whom he lived with on the northwest side until she died at age 93.  Rita was still cooking up to the age of ninety, though, says Melvin, and over the years, she taught him how to cook many of her specialties.   His older sister, Audrey, passed away when she was in her fifties from lung cancer, and Wanda had moved away shortly after her marriage.  So when his mother died, Melvin was left on his own.

In 1983, he was able to get a union maintenance job at Armstrong and Blum tool makers, a job which he really enjoyed.  “I made great money there,” Melvin says, but unfortunately he had a series of accidents on the job.  After only six years there, he was forced to retire because all of his injuries prevented him from adequately doing the job.  He was only sixty-two at the time.  Shortly after that, there was a fire in his apartment building, and Melvin jumped from a 4th story window, breaking his ankle and his back in the process.

Melvin spent weeks in the hospital and was then transferred to a rehab center.  From there, he really had nowhere to go, so he admitted himself to a nursing home, Clark Manor.   Eventually, he recovered so well and became so independent that the staff at Clark Manor told him he would have to be discharged because he did not really need skilled nursing care.  From there he went to a retirement-type of hotel, but it was very dirty, says Melvin, so he somehow checked himself back into Clark Manor.  Again he was told he would have to leave, so he admitted himself to Alden, another nursing home.

Melvin was happy at Alden and became very attached to the woman, Bertha Zimman, in the room next to his.  In fact, they fell in love, and Melvin, age sixty-six, asked her to marry him.  They arranged for a rabbi to come and officiate, and the staff helped Bertha’s daughter, Laura, throw a big party for them at the home.  Melvin and Bertha were apparently happy together and enjoyed having Laura visit every day.

After about two years, however, Melvin grew dissatisfied with Alden and claimed that not only had two pairs of his slippers been stolen but that the staff had begun to hit him.  Thus, Melvin and Bertha moved to another nursing home, Peterson Park, where they remained for another two years.  Melvin enjoyed Peterson Park, but Bertha longed to go back to Alden because it was close to her daughter, Laura’s, house, which meant that Laura would visit daily.  Peterson Park was farther, so Laura visited them less.  Melvin refused to go back to Alden, so Bertha moved back on her own.  After only two weeks at being back at Alden, however, Bertha passed away of a heart attack.

Bertha’s death hit Melvin very hard, and he at times still expresses anger at Bertha.  “The doctor told her to lose weight and exercise, but she wouldn’t,” he says, frequently blaming her for her demise.  Shortly after her death, Melvin again sought to move to a different nursing home, again reporting that his slippers were stolen and that members of the staff had begun to hit him, the very same thing that had apparently happened back at Alden.

When questioned about his, the staff at Peterson Park claim they were all completely shocked when Melvin expressed his desire to move and by his accusations of abuse.  Before Bertha’s death, they say that he always appeared happy and content.  He went into a depression, however, after Bertha’s death, which they have been trying to help him with.  They claim that the real reason Melvin moves from nursing home to nursing home is that he has been suffering for years, possibly since the fire in his apartment building, from a paranoia that someone is trying to kill him.  He uses the excuse of the stolen slippers and physical abuse from staff to cover up, they say, for his real fear, which is that someone is following him and wants to kill him.

Besides this apparent mental issue, Melvin is a very engaging, sociable man.  He seems to be making a smooth transition to this new nursing home, his fourth, and participates in all activities offered.  He is very helpful and is actively seeking out friends.  He still misses Bertha, he says, and is sad that no one comes to visit.  He understands that his only family member left, his sister, Wanda, is too far away to visit and that she has her own health issues, but he feels hurt that Laura, Bertha’s daughter, never comes to see him anymore.

(Originally written: August 1995)