Science & Medicine

Shalom, Charlotte

Charlotte… portrait of a hero

                                                                                                By Shelly Levin


CHARLOTTE LEVIN. Born in Glendale, CA May 5, 1930, died in Espanola, NM December 20, 2011.  She was buried in Gates of Heaven Cemetery according to the Orthodox Jewish tradition with Rabbi Levertov of Chabad officiating.  She is survived by her husband Sheldon and her son Monty.

During WWII, I enlisted in the army, joined the Ski Troops and was wounded in action in Italy.  Using the GI Bill, I earned a degree in mathematics at USC and not long afterward met Charlotte who had just graduated from UC Berkley with a degree in anthropology.

Charlotte said that our marriage was ordained and we were married in Los Angeles in the Jewish tradition in 1953. Not long afterward, we left our families and moved to Washington DC. Four years later Charlotte received her MA in anthro and linguistics and we had saved enough money to take a yearlong camping trip in Europe.

We lived the usual middle class American life: house in the suburbs, PTA, piano lessons, Friday evening services, and protesting against discrimination in the 60’s.  Shortly after the Israeli six-day war, I was able to arrange a two-year project in Israel. Charlotte and I and our children, Monty and Deena,  moved into a tiny three-room 5th floor apartment near Tel Aviv and began a new and very different life.

When we returned to the US in 1969, we sought-out the newly organized Jewish Defense League and became activists.

The American Nazi party and had planned a demonstration in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC on Israel Independence day.  They carried signs saying, “burn Jews not oil,” and brazenly marched in their uniforms with swastikas and signs… The JDL of Washington DC had planned to disrupt this demonstration and Charlotte, fists flying, led the charge against the formation of Nazi troops.  In the fracas, she was knocked down, stepped on and had a tooth broken.  When she got up the first thing that she did was to run over to one of the boys who had gotten “maced” in the face to try to help him.

There were many other “actions” in which she was arrested e.g. for chaining herself to the White house fence, demonstrating in front of the Soviet Union Embassy, spitting on Henry Kissinger’s automobile when he was riding to receive the man-of-the- year award.  When she was brought handcuffed into the police station she defiantly refused to answer questions unless the handcuffs were removed—which they did.

By the 1980s, after  I retired,  with both of our kids were in college, we started a new life in New Mexico.  My work for defense contractors permitted us to travel as much as we wanted to…and we did! We went on extended trips visiting 53 countries and every one of our States. We adopted a daily physical exercise routine and a modified Mediterranean diet, which continued until her death.

About 1998 our GP told Charlotte that her platelets were too high and by 2002 he recommended that she see a hematologist who promptly did a bone marrow biopsy and said that it looked like E.T.  After two TIAs that year  we went to Mayo in Arizona. Dr Roeder said it appeared to be PV. Finally we went to see Dr Spivak at Johns Hopkins who confirmed the PV diagnosis and the bi-weekly phlebotomies Charlotte was still in great physical condition and we continued exercising, hiking and traveling.

In 2004, we were hiking in the Jemez Mountains at about 10000’ and Charlotte couldn’t catch her breath.  She was later diagnosed with emphysema and began using supplementary oxygen at night but still felt good and continued exercising and traveling until 2009 when she had a deep bleed in her leg and almost overnight the PV converted into myelofibrosis. After that, she required an ever-increasing amount of supplementary oxygen

She began getting transfusions, Prednisone and Thalidomide and had three courses of splenic irradiation but her condition worsened.  She was on 22 liters/min of oxygen using a rebreather mask and getting weaker all the time.

Charlotte’s final act of bravery came about during the last few months of her life. She had two fatal illnesses, myelofibrosis and pulmonary hypertension, which were slowly killing her despite the efforts of the best doctors.  Her oncologist suggested hospice, which she refused; the nurses suggested a nursing home and she said that she wanted to die at home without any tubes or wires hanging on her. I agreed to help her fulfill that wish.

As her end neared, we spoke of the joys of our past life and of our love for each other.  She said that she had no regrets and that she did not fear death, only for leaving me alone.

When the final hours approached, we said prayers together and read psalms.  The nurses removed the life support and she died bravely holding my hand and our son’s hand.

© Sheldon Levin and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sheldon Levin and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Comments on: "Shalom, Charlotte" (7)

  1. They are together now beyond the “veil” and they were my “Jewish parents”. As a teenager they were a family that I could go to when my family was falling apart. They gave me a wonderful understanding of Judaism and helped me to respect myself by giving me respect. Thank you Charlotte and Shelly. I truly appreciated and appreciate you.

  2. Anne Bauman said:

    How very fortunate you are to have shared your life with a true, strong woman of valor. Many thanks for sharing your story of her blessed life with us. Blessings & comfort to you & your son.

  3. Dear Sheldon,

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful life with you and your amazing love Charlotte.



  4. Ginger Rice said:

    Dear Sheldon
    This is such a lovely portrait of Charlotte. What a beautiful ‘adventure’ you’ve described. I enjoyed her emails. She often spoke of you. I called her ‘Hugs Charlotte’ as she used that as a sign-off signature. When I wrote about wanting to ‘howl at the coyotes’, she understood & told me about a special lady coyote she had bonded to. I immediately admired her strength of spirit & felt she was special….one in a million. After reading your tribute, I realize how I underestimated just how special.
    Thank you so much for writing ‘Charlotte….a portrait of a Hero’. Gentle thoughts and prayers are with you.

  5. Charlotte was a very special person who helped others along life’s path. She was very modest about all of her accomplishments, I idea about some of her

    achievements. What a wonderful marriage you two had, the memories will always be with you. I always remember Charlotte emailing me about her pull date – she explained it as the cans on a shelf in a grocery store that have expired, they are pulled from the shelf, thus; she called it her pull date. In the past few years I learned so much about Charlotte through our emails, she will always live on in my heart.

  6. Ellen Jacquart said:

    What a woman, and what a life you had together. I’m sorry for your loss – thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Joan Gatturna said:

    What a beautiful tribute. It’s a wonderful way to keep someone’s spirit alive – share it with others. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

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