Hyman and Esther Mendel came from Russia to New York in the late 19th century and settled in Atlanta. He sold soft goods from a back pack walking. He was 19. Hyman borrowed money, bought a horse and increased his business enough to soon afford a store front. A few storefronts later H. Mendel and Sons was a successful business and the family was living well. When Hyman passed on in 1954 it was covered on the front page of the Atlanta Journal.

The immigrant couple had eight children. The oldest, Sarah Mendel married Henry Koplin (who was also one of eight children) and bought a business in Macon Georgia in 1919 which became Macon Iron and General Steel. Henry died in 1952 and I was named after him. Sarah lived to nearly 102 and died in 1996. She ate lots of red meat, only drank whole milk (hated that watered down milk) and drank scotch from a water sized tumbler. To the best of my knowledge she never took an aerobics class.

Sarah’s brothers and sisters were strong minded, strong willed , highly principled, industrious, and dedicated to family.
Over Thanksgiving we had a reunion of the offspring of Hyman and Esther. Sarah and her seven siblings have all passed on, but over 200 descendents gathered in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic at the Paradisus Resort. Their offspring includes successful entrepreneurs, doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, teachers, investors, managers, writers, a movie star, salespeople, philanthropists, students and a bunch of just damn fine people.

I doubt if Esther and Hyman could have foreseen the gift of family they engendered, but I am sure they would have been proud of every family member.

The gift from Esther and Hyman was America’s gain and Russia’s loss.