Mort Zimmerman, a World War II veteran and grand marshal of Great Neck’s 2018 Memorial Day parade, died June 11, surrounded by his family. He was 98.
Born July 17, 1922, Zimmerman, a Great Neck resident for more than 50 years, enlisted in the military on March 22, 1943 while attending Baruch College. Not yet 21 years old, Zimmerman was an official member of the Army Air Corps and was sent to Greeley, Colo., and Montgomery, Ala., for training.
In a 2018 interview with the Great Neck News, Zimmerman said he later boarded a Liberty ship to Liverpool, England, where he joined the newly formed European civil affairs regiment. Zimmerman traveled through France, Belgium, and Germany to administer towns taken by the Allied forces, help refugees and follow American troops as they swept through the Western Front.
His work in the regiment was faced with constant attacks from opposing troops and was essential in providing aid and relief to war refugees. The role put him in touch with many individuals, Zimmerman said.
The war in Europe wound down sooner than in Japan, where Zimmerman said many men from the European front were transferred to fight. When the end of World War II finally came, Zimmerman said that while he took pride in his work, he was happy to finally head home.
Once home, Zimmerman returned to Baruch College where he ultimately graduated. He then received his Master’s in Business Administration from NYU. After college Zimmerman became a certified public accountant and served as the chief financial officer of Russ Togs Inc., a sportswear manufacturer, for more than two decades.
Zimmerman married Annette, who lived in the same apartment house with him in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, two years after the war’s end. The two were together for nearly 68 years, until her death in 2015, and they had two sons: Robert and John. John became a cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center and married Ellen. They have three children together. Robert is a co-founder of ZE Communications, a Great Neck-based public relations firm, who has also served as a national Democratic committeeman.
After spending time in New Jersey and Massachusetts, Zimmerman and his family moved to Great Neck in 1964. Robert said his father never squandered any of the opportunities presented to him throughout his life.
“He had so many opportunities through city colleges and the GI Bill of Rights and yet he never lost that awareness,” Robert said in a phone interview with Blank Slate Media. “He never lost the idealism and optimism that he had through his life. He was always very conscious of the fact that other people made opportunities available to him, and it was his responsibility to pass it forward.”
Aside from his outstanding professional and military background, Zimmerman also left his mark on various community service organizations, including his time as president of Temple Emanuel in Great Neck. Even after his presidency more than 40 years ago, Zimmerman was an active member of the synagogue up until his death.
“Mortimer Zimmerman served with distinction as president of Temple Emanuel in the early Seventies, and he remained involved in the work of the synagogue for all of these years,” Temple Emanuel Rabbi Robert S. Widom said. “He was dedicated, first and foremost, to his beloved family, and they returned the devotion in kind. He also cared deeply about the world in which he lived. He read The New York Times every day and was aware of the major issues and concerns of people, everywhere. We had very serious discussions, almost daily, up to the very end of his life. Our talks became a ritual in my own life; I will miss the talks as I will miss him.”
Robert said his father’s admiration and enthrallment with the opera spanning more than four decades was rivaled by his passion for television shows ranging from “Blue Bloods” to “The Equalizer” starring Queen Latifah. Above all else, Robert said, his father’s devotion to his family is the part of his legacy that left the greatest impact.
“I think what truly distinguished my dad was his complete devotion to his family,” Robert said. “It is reflected by my brother, myself, my sister-in-law, and my nephews. He made a commitment to life, a commitment to living and an appreciation for life that is seldom seen.”
Zimmerman is survived by his sons Robert and John and his wife Ellen Hirsch Zimmerman, his grandchildren Benjamin Zimmerman and his wife Anna Ellis Zimmerman, Gregory Zimmerman and his wife Tibby Iz, and Samuel Zimmerman, and his late great-grandchild, Ellis Daniel Zimmerman.
In lieu of flowers or food, Robert said, donations to the Stephen C. Widom Cultural Arts Center are appreciated.