Life Story of the one and only, fabulous Jerry Basofin… Jerry was born on August 23, 1944 to Irene and David Basofin. He was born during WWII when his father was stationed in Italy. He lived in Albany Park with his mother, Aunt Jean and Uncle Sam and his grandmother Stella Levinson. Two years later when his father, David, returned from the war, Jerry met him for the first time. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Hollywood Park. First to a small apartment and then to a 2 flat on Bernard Street when his sister Sharon was born. The 2 flat was co-owned by the Basofins and David Basofin's close childhood friend George Bachini and...
Life Story of the one and only, fabulous Jerry Basofin…
Jerry was born on August 23, 1944 to Irene and David Basofin. He was born during WWII when his father was stationed in Italy. He lived in Albany Park with his mother, Aunt Jean and Uncle Sam and his grandmother Stella Levinson. Two years later when his father, David, returned from the war, Jerry met him for the first time.
Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Hollywood Park. First to a small apartment and then to a 2 flat on Bernard Street when his sister Sharon was born. The 2 flat was co-owned by the Basofins and David Basofin's close childhood friend George Bachini and his family. Jerry started Peterson Elementary School and made many friends both there and in the neighborhood, such as Sharon Lebitsky and Geri Widdes who became life-long friends. Besides Peterson School, he went to Shaare Tikvah for Hebrew School where he had his bar mitzvah. With his family, he went to various musicals that came to Chicago both downtown and in summer stock. A favorite memory was going to New York on a family vacation to see Broadway plays. One particular favorite was seeing Richard Burton and Julie Andrews in Camelot.
When Jerry was growing up in Hollywood Park, teenagers joined social clubs and he joined the Epsilons. He was proud to wear his black and gold Epsilon jacket! He loved to dance-the jitterbug and the cha cha, and was already a great dancer. He went to Von Steuben High School and claimed that he really did not like school, academically, except for art class in which he excelled. What Jerry really liked about Von was lunch period where he jitterbugged and cha cha'd through the lunch hour at the nearby hangouts, Marie's and Rochelle's. Jerry also joined the Deborah Boys Club. There they put on plays and Jerry was cast in South Pacific (which he also choreographed) and Once Upon a Mattress. Jerry and a friend Karen Hirsh found out about the Harvest Moon Festival. They tried out and performed at the festival for a few years during high school and eventually won the jitterbug competition.
During high school, Jerry worked at the Schubert Theater as both an usher and behind the concession stand in the lobby. This was a job he really liked. He liked shouting out emphatically, "Cold drinks-get your cold drinks here!" Eating some of the candy before selling the unsealed boxes was another thrill to him and his coworkers.
Before heading to college, he took driving lessons for a few weeks. He would come home and say how much he hated it, but he failed to mention how the instructor hated having him as a student. The instructor feared for his life. One day he insisted Jerry get out of the car and promised to refund his parents' money. Needless to say, the driving instructor lived happily ever after and, of course, Jerry never did learn how to drive a car, not even a bumper-car. He did, however, know how to ride a bike, a two-wheeler at that!
After high school, he went to college at Illinois Weslyan. There he used up his monthly food allowance in a week because he didn't know how to cut Salisbury steak, etc. in the cafeteria. He had to frequent the local fast food restaurant for meals which cost a lot more. He switched to the University of Iowa where he majored in speech, drama, and education. He even learned how to cut meat in home economics! He graduated college and decided teaching just wasn't for him. So, he got a job at Marshall Field's in the camera department-selling cameras he didn't know how to operate. He was then able to move out of his family's home to a studio apartment on Grant Place and once again made new friends who have become life-long friends even if just by long distance phone conversations.
In 1968, his father had a heart attack and passed away. After that Jerry was reconnected with George Bachini –his father's friend who took him under his wing. One of George's business partners in Union Tysen Ticket Service was retiring and George needed to find a new partner. He asked Jerry if he wanted to join the business. George taught him the ticket business and helped launch him on a very successful career. A few years later, another partner retired, and Jerry's cousin Richard Levinson joined him at Union Tysen and they continued to run a successful business for many years, especially during the Michael Jordan era.
Jerry joined a reunion committee two years prior to his 10th year reunion from Von Steuben High School. At this time, he reconnected with his childhood friend Geri Widdes. They worked with two other friends for almost two years on a musical skit for their reunion. It was great fun and well received at the reunion. They had dance numbers in the skit and that's where it all began. They started dancing at Juke Box Saturday Night where they met Kathleen Sauser for the first time. Everyone was so impressed with Jerry's unique style of dancing that they just lined up to dance with him …in retrospect charging for "dance tickets" could have been quite lucrative, oh well! A Juke Box Tuesday Night Regular encouraged Jerry/Geri to go to At the Hop. Again, they made many new friends. They entered dance competitions and their signature song was "Papa- Oom- Mow- Mow." Geri and Jerry became known as Widdes and Basofin or Boy Jerry and Girl Geri. They won several dance contests and auditioned for Dance Fever where Walter Payton was a judge and really took notice. They also danced at Wrigley Field in a pre-game competition.
The At the Hop dance floor became too crowded and this circle of friends started the dance club CWCJC (Chicago Windy City Jitterbug Club). A few years later, Girl Geri was busy raising her daughter, Kimberly, and Boy Jerry branched out with Kathleen Sauser to another dance style-West Coast Swing. They competed here in Chicago and around the country, and won many dance competitions. Jerry had many special memories not only from dancing and traveling but expanding his circle of friends. West Coast Swing prompted the formation of a new dance club called the Rebels. Jerry and Geri were in both clubs increasing their circle of friends.
Jerry really enjoyed talking on the telephone especially if it involved "gossip," going to parties, the theater, and dining in fine restaurants-his favorite being the Golden Ox, where he loved sauerbraten. He also loved Myron & Phil's, Lutnia's, Sabatino's, etc. At Mrs. Widdes' he always brought a shopping bag with his complete set of Tupperware for leftovers. And, believe it or not, after dances he wanted to go to White Castle for a late-nite snack.
Besides dancing, work, and friends, Jerry loved collecting art. The walls and floors of his condo were covered with art. He also loved high fashion designer clothes and shoes---filling two walk-in closets and an extra large closet. He was known for his unique, one of a kind rings, bracelets, and broaches that were custom made for him. He traveled often to Puerto Rico to enjoy dining at the finest restaurants and to buy jewelry… sightseeing was only for tourists! He also enjoyed creating humorous telephone answering messages. Friends would say they would call Jerry and hope he wouldn't pick up so they could listen to his new message. Jerry was known for sending bizarre greeting cards for all occasions. No matter how bizarre, they were well received and appreciated. Along with his friend, Geri, they would create and send clever holiday cards of themselves in humorous situations. Friends and acquaintances would eagerly await the new card each year. Along with holiday greetings, conference call birthday messages were created and became treasured by all, even though they often used up the message capacity on answering machines. Of course, they would never sing "live" in fear of a hang-up or losing a friend.
After he turned 50, Jerry discovered that he had some serious heart problems-he had an attack of ventricular tachycardia and almost died. Fortunately, he made it to the emergency room just in time where they could paddle his heart back to normal rhythm. He stated then that he wasn't sure what life would have in store for him, that he had had a fabulous life and he had been so fortunate.
He had so many friends as well as his sister Sharon and his cousins Richard, Scott, and Debbie and they poured into Illinois Masonic Hospital in person and/or on the phone to support him. He had a private room that had so many flowers in it, hospital employees would come to see this amazing room with all the flowers and the walls papered with get well wishes. He was hospitalized for over a month and endured several procedures.
Jerry made it through this and continued to work, dance, and be with friends. He didn't become a cardiac cripple. He went to Cardiac Rehab three days a week at St. Joseph Hospital before work where he claimed he was the star. (This was probably due to his younger age.) He looked forward to the breakfast club following exercise. He again made many new friends and his circle of friends continued to grow.
His heart continued to weaken, and he got a pacemaker/difibrillator. Still he continued to work and to dance (though maybe a little slower). He received an award from the National Association of Ticket Brokers honoring 25 years or more of outstanding service and dedication to his profession. He was affectionately known by other ticket brokers as the "King of the Ticket Brokers."
Jerry's heart kept getting weaker. Also with the world of computers, the Internet, and the era of Michael Jordan gone, business wasn't what it used to be. Jerry's health was deteriorating and he needed to slow down.
Life still included going with friends to dances and eating out. He also started playing card games, such as, "spades" and "screw your neighbor," with the Dirty Dozen plus 2 (Jerry and Geri were the plus 2). During this time, he was going in and out of the hospital for one reason or another and he decided to retire. He needed more and more help and the assistance of a caregiver. He found an angel of one in Victor who worked for him for almost five years-first while Jerry lived at his condo on Commonwealth and then when Jerry moved to the Kenwood. Jerry had a fabulous apartment on Commonwealth and again at the Kenwood. The Kenwood rehabbed 3 studio apartments and converted them into 1 large apartment with 2 bedrooms. Jerry was able to bring all of his art and adorn the walls and floor space of his new apartment. He still had 2 full walk-in closets plus an additional large closet and filled them completely with his clothes and shoes.
Jerry's heart kept deteriorating. Finally, doctors at Illinois Masonic said he would only have a few months to live. They suggested he consider getting an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) that would add some years to his life. He decided to get the LVAD. The new team of doctors at Northwestern would only consider him as a candidate if he had someone to live with him and take care of him with this device. His caregiver/friend Victor agreed to do this. Thus, Jerry started a new chapter of his life learning to live with this heart machine. He needed another caregiver/friend Dave to work weekends as he needed care 24/7. He began going to cardiac rehab at Illinois Masonic as a case study, being their first LVAD patient. Of course, he made some more new friends.
At the Kenwood he played "poker, went on field trips and, believe it or not, went to cooking classes and then would wait anxiously for what he prepared to be delivered to his apartment. Friends came to visit and encouraged Jerry to get out and continue to go to plays and parties, and to play cards socially, which he did for as long as he was able.
The LVAD did give Jerry a few more years of life. However, he continued to have strokes and he became more and more incapacitated and frightened. He was hospitalized once again for another stroke. During his last several days, so many friends, family and business associates shared heartfelt memories either by visiting with him or talking to him by phone. He was never alone because he was surrounded by love not only from his sister Sharon, his friends, Geri and Kathleen and his compassionate caregiver, Victor, but several of his closest friends. When he knew he had enough, he took his last breaths and passed away quite peacefully.
Jerry was a concerned and loving brother, cousin, and a very generous, thoughtful, fabulous friend. He will be missed, but definitely remembered by all.