Full Name: Lucille Tandlich
Date of Death: Monday, April 10, 2023
We celebrate our mom’s life and highlight special moments. My dad, Bob, instead of calling my mom “Lucille”, often referred to her as “Lou.” When she began teaching at the Barnert Temple Pre-school, my mom told me that she needed a name for the kids to call her. I suggested “Lady Lou.” I thought it would be great to have another “L” to go with Lou. She loved it. The name stuck.
In addition to creative names, our mom loved creative projects. This brings me to The Tree. Placed on a wall downstairs in the den, bark-colored contact paper was cut into a tree shape. She then cut out, also from contact paper, red apples and green leaves, then stuck them on the tree branches.
Years later, mom redecorated the room. The tree got a make-over and became a Family Tree. Onto each apple she placed a photo of family members. The challenging part was wrangling the photo onto the apple. I found it amusing to see whose neck, arm or ear was sacrificed, in order to fit onto the apple.
Another passion was cooking. Often, she’d create her own recipes. Other times, she tried recipes from cookbooks or magazines. Everything was always fabulous. With one exception: an award-winning pasta concoction, made with tomato sauce and sour cream. She served it. We hated it. Even my dad wouldn’t eat it.
Mom was confused. “I don’t understand, this won her a trip around the world.” My sister frowned. “The judges probably sent her away to get rid of her.”
Our mom also had a talent for taking traditional objects and using them in a way that was non-traditional. She turned a wicker birdcage into a planter, an antique vase into a table lamp, transformed logging saws into ceiling lights, and bold, contemporary bed sheets became table cloths. I could always tell when a creative idea was forming. That’s when she’d look at an object, look away, look back and say “OH.” As we celebrate her life, these are just a few examples of what made her special.
My mom was born in 1927. Along with her brother, Art, she grew up and lived for years in New York City, mostly on the Upper West Side. Their parents, Max & Frieda, born in Romania and Hungary, ran Sanford Dairy, a chain of grocery stores. One location was on 110th and Broadway, close to their apartment.
As a child, Lucille made crank phone calls. She found strangers named “Stone” in the phone book, and referred to their children as “The little pebbles.” As a teen, Lucille longed to see Frank Sinatra at the Paramount Theatre in midtown. The venue oversold the tickets. Undeterred, Lucille and a friend shared one seat. A few years later, Lucille was awarded a BA in Education from NYU. Back then, far fewer people, especially girls, attended college. In her free time, Lucille shopped for cool earrings in the Village. She also played tennis and skied. At the 92nd street Y, she’d shoot hoops with the boys, as they were better players.
After graduation, Lucille made close friends at JHS 99 in East Harlem. First, she taught steno, typing and short hand. Then, she taught math. Lucille didn’t have a natural gift with numbers. However, the principal loved her colorful bulletin boards, decorated with paint, drawings and magazine photos. Somehow, the principal decided that self- expression via cork, staples and push pins qualified her for the ardors of arithmetic. Lucille was unsure. The principal offered an extra free period. Lucille accepted.
Romance had its own challenges. To ensure she’d never be taller than a blind date, she kept two pairs of shoes by the door: flats and heels. Lucille-in heels-met her future husband, Bob. Their first date occurred after his mom, Lee, went to a lunch at B’nai B’rith, a Jewish charity. Lee had a son. The four other ladies at the table, including Lucille’s mom, Frieda, had daughters. Lee left with four phone numbers. After their first date, Bob told his mother, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” In 1958, they walked down the aisle. In an another non-traditional move, Lucille held a short, teachers-only hors d’oeuvres reception in the temple. The gathering occured after the ceremony and before the official reception. This was so the teachers, who were not invited to the official reception, could feel included.
Our home on Birchwood Drive in Wyckoff, NJ had a cow pasture behind the back yard and a rock garden for a front yard. Lucille partnered with Bob to make other bold, decorating choices. This included a sunken, indoor fish pond. At the head of the pond, perched on a mound of lime green stone, stood a white ceramic, Buddha-shaped, Tiki cocktail tumbler. After running a power line, water spurted from the Buddha’s tummy.
A few feet away stood a large, white, round rug, purchased from Faber Brothers Broadloom in Oakland. First, Lucille asked for the rug to be cut into a circle. The rug man agreed. Then, she asked that a large hole be cut in the middle. The rug man disagreed. She assured the confused rug man the hole was vital to her aesthetic concept. The rug man thought she was weird. Undaunted, Lucille told him she wanted to see the polished bluestone floor peeking out from the center of the rug. The rug, cut under protest, was placed in front of our white, mid-century modern, Prewar cone fireplace. The circular design brought the room together.
Besides unique exterior and interior design, Lucille invented original recipes. Inspired by food allergies, her tasty and imaginative dishes featured healthy ingredients. She also delighted in blasting WOR radio (often used as a wake-up call). Two of my favorite quotes of hers are: “Get up. It’s late” and “Go to bed. It’s late.”
After Bob died, Lucille worked for over 20 years at the Barnert Temple, until her mid-90’s. As a drama teacher, she guided young children to embrace the joy of performing arts.
Aside from speaking every day, often on FaceTime, we also visited in person. In December, we celebrated Hannukah. In February, we celebrated her 96th birthday. Now, we celebrate her life.