Uncle Perk’s Bench Dedication
Hurleyville Firemen’s Park

July 1, 2006

Hello, everybody!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Bonnie Makofsky, and Louis B. Jacobson, or “Perk” to all of us who knew him, was my uncle.

Uncle Perk was born in Hurleyville in 1909 and lived to the ripe old age of 94. He was always strong as a bull, and he never got sick. We were all sure that he’d sail right by 100 years, but a faulty heart valve eventually got the best of him.

When I was asked to say a few words about Uncle Perk at today’s ceremony, I thought for a long time about how to best paint a verbal picture of one of the most kind-hearted and giving people I’ve ever known. Uncle Perk was one of the people who made it so wonderful to have grown up in this town.

The one thought that kept returning to my mind was “big hands, generous heart”. I initially discarded that thought as sounding silly, but it just kept coming back to me. I thought about how I used to watch him as he worked behind the meat counter in Perk’s Market, quickly sharpening knives, carrying huge sides of beef from the cooler, and frequently wiping his hands on his white butcher’s apron. He would see me watching and reach out as if to shake hands and then…somehow… wrap his arm over mine and remind me that this was the way the MP’s subdued unruly soldiers. (He had served in Europe during WW II – I never thought to ask which side of the handshake he had been on). No matter how I tried, I never seemed to properly execute that technique. Some evenings, those hands would hold out a set of keys to my cousin Bette and me so that we could unlock the store and roller skate at what we considered breakneck speed around and around… past the cans of green beans and tomato sauce, across in front of the meat counter and up past the boxes of soaps and detergents. He never warned us not to break anything, nor did he remind us not to snack too much!

Uncle Perk closed the store in the 1960’s. He decided to do a little traveling. He wanted to “see the USA first,” so he bought a camper, packed up the love of his life, my Aunt Florence, and signed on for cross-country caravan trips.

At the time, I just couldn’t imagine my Aunt Flo and Uncle Perk driving around the country in a camper, but those years turned into very special ones for them. He told us that his secret to travel success was in “not following the pack.” One had to occasionally get off onto the side roads in order to find more interesting sites and personalities.

Uncle Perk was an early physical fitness buff and he was the first adult I had ever seen “jog” for exercise. He could do more pushups in his 80’s than most of us here, and he combined his interest in exercise and all types of gadgetry when he bought a moped and couldn’t wait to test it on Columbia Hill.

Uncle Perk loved to tell jokes and had a pun for every situation…he said that line of thinking kept his mind sharp. He enjoyed it when we laughed and he always laughed along with us, but he didn’t mind if we rolled our eyes and groaned. The fun was in the telling….

Uncle Perk never forgot a family birthday. He always sent a card containing his wishes for good health and happiness… along with an enclosed check. When his eyesight started to fail he apologized for his handwriting.

Over the years I learned that, in his quiet way, Uncle Perk helped a lot of people. I asked my mother, now and then, about a stranger knocking on Uncle Perk’s door. She told me that it was probably someone who had come for a donation and that “he never said no.” When he was away and I picked up his mail at the post office, I asked if I should throw out the mailings he received from various organizations. She said: “No, he contributes to all of them.”

After he died, individual townspeople told us stories of Perkie’s generosity, including how he had helped their parents buy a house for their growing family, and how he had driven a fatherless teen to the school basketball games. Uncle Perk never talked about his good deeds.

Uncle Perkie loved Hurleyville. He loved to tell stories about the town and its early inhabitants. He was always happy to see a new business open, and he worried about the future of the town. He took on the responsibility of watering the flower barrels that decorated the sidewalks in the summer. You could see him making his way along Main Street carrying 5 gallon pails of water until all of the flowers had a drink. When the trees at the front of this park were planted, Perk showered them with buckets of water to make sure they would grow. Even at age 90, he walked to the Jewish cemetery daily to water the newly seeded grass, and he worked tirelessly to make sure the graves looked as they should.

Uncle Perk became a volunteer firefighter in the Hurleyville Fire Department at the age of 15 or 16. His older brother, Julius, died at age 19 as a result of injuries sustained while rescuing guests from the fire that destroyed the Prairie House Hotel. His brother, Abie, was a Hurleyville fireman for many years and served as fire chief. Perk eventually became the oldest living member of the department with more than 70 years of service.

Uncle Perkie would have been very happy to see this lovely park and thankful to all of you who have worked so hard to create it. He would have been especially honored to have a bench placed here in his name. If he were here today, though, he’d probably be doing a bit of mowing, watering or even painting. He wasn’t one to sit still.

So, speaking for Perkie and for our family, we thank you.