My Favorite Mensch–My Dad

The summer I turned nine, my parents sent me to camp for the first time. That first day, after filing off the bus in our gingham shorts and sleeveless shirts, we new campers huddled together, nervous, excited, waiting for the camp director to call our names and send us to our bunks. Half way through the list of names, the director called “Tiger Mark,” but no one responded. Eventually, all the names were called, but I didn’t hear my name. Maybe I had gotten on the wrong bus?

“Tiger Mark,” the director called again and smiled at me. Then I understood. I recognized my last name “Mark.” My Dad, ever the jokester, had filled in my name on the camp form as “Tiger.” It was his nickname for me, his way of reminding me, even hundreds of miles away at camp, to set my eye on my goal and never give up. I raised my hand and smiled big. “That’s me,” I said.

Not giving up was the third most important thing my Dad taught me. The second most important? Be straight and clear and true with others. His straightforward approach never caused us to doubt him or question his meaning. Once, for example, when we asked him what death meant, he told us it meant you stopped breathing. So last summer, when he stopped breathing, we knew what it meant. There is a time to not give up, but there’s also a time to let go, my Dad seemed to tell me as he took his last breath.

Despite these profound lessons, one lesson transcends them both. The third most important thing my Dad taught me: love. He loved his family first and best; we always knew it, and we know it still. For his lessons and for his love, I remember and honor my father this Father’s Day. He is my number one mensch.

Who is yours? Please share a short story, essay, or remembrance of your favorite mensch on this blog. To read more about my Dad, Julian Mark click here.

Best, Jane (Tiger Mark) Moritz


  1. Josh Moritz Said,

    June 13, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    One of my favorite memories is that my dad would take me every Saturday to Uncle George’s junk yard in Brooklyn, NY. Well before concerns about insurance and liability, as a 6 to 8 year old I freely roamed the entire junk yard, looking at all sorts of stuff, throwing rocks through windows of old junkers, not understanding that selling windows was part of my uncles gig. On top of my uncles shack — and it was a real shack with a coal burning stove to keep warm in the winter, a real, vicious junk yard dog, dirty clothes and soot everywhere — was an MG TC, a classic sports car brought over by returning WWII vets. Dad said uncle George used to refer to it as a kitty car, not worth keeping. Wish I had that hulk now in my driveway.

    Once we moved to Pittsburgh Dad’s Saturday outings usually consisted of hero sandwiches or McDonalds followed by bowling. At that time I was pretty fat, something like 4 feet 5 inches and 105 pounds. One year that changed and i was nearly 5 feet 9 inches tall and 125 pounds and looked like string bean. Dad commented that when I looked more like a bowling ball, I bowled better.

    Dad did make it a point when I was in college to have diner with me to send me a clear message that having a committed relationship was better in life than not having one. Although by the time I was 27 and my mother had given me permission to date anyone I would like (Chinese and African Americans would be ok once I got to 28), Dad had given up that i would ever settle down. He was surprised of course when I married Jane at the ripe old age of 33.

    Upon the birth of our first son, Dad was so happy that he swore he would take Sam through Central Park carrying a machete to protect him if he had to. He said the same for Harry and Mike, although he never really had to.

    Dad’s underlying message was never give up. You see he has survived jumping out of a B29 over Tokyo during a bombing run in March 1945 was imprisoned and then freed several days after the atomic bomb dropped. The camp conditions were worse than terrible, not just disease but starvation. But he survived. As I think how hard it can be at times to have a career and support a family, I just remember, I never had to face what he faced, and he did it at 19 or 20, about the same age as his grandsons Sam and Harry are today.

    So to my Dad, thanks.

  2. Rima Berzin Said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 11:26 am

    These stories fill my heart with many emotions. Fathers are our precious gift and your stories, Josh and Jane, are very inspiring and beautifully told. You were certainly given riches with the lessons they left you. Thank you so much for sharing.

    You have inspired me to write, or at least focus on the gifts my Dad so lovingly gave me.

  3. Susan Terry Said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 11:30 am

    Such sweet stories!!

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