Share a Story

Please help us celebrate Jeff’s life by sharing your personal thoughts.


97 thoughts on “Share a Story

  1. Bonnie Greenberg says:

    This tribute page is such a wonderful idea. Jeff lived up the street from me while we were growing up. I graduated with his sister, Lisa. I “found” Jeff again after I realized he was the author of the Last Lecture. That lecture made an everlasting impact on me, and I thank Jeff for making it so public. I “Facebooked” him, and have enjoyed reading about his successes over the last few years. I am so sorry for his friends and family- what a great loss.

  2. Mitch Gerber says:

    No friend was a better writer, and no writer was a better friend. The man was hard-wired for joy, and it was for sharing. I loved him. Still do. Always will.

  3. Mark Kall says:

    Sherry, This website has been so cathartic (purifying: producing a feeling of being purified emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically as a result of an intense emotional experience – Bing Dictionary). Thank you for letting us share our thoughts and remembrances of Jeff.

  4. Jeff and I worked at The Orlando Sentinel back in the ’80s. I’d like to (humbly) share my blog post on how hard this has hit me:

  5. Jeff and I worked at The Orlando Sentinel back in the ’80s. I’d like to (humbly) share my blog ramblings on how hard this has hit me.

  6. Marilyn Walder says:

    I have had the privilege of knowing the Zaslow family for over 34 years, particularly Jeff’s brother Darrell and his wife.They are an extraordinary group. I remember when my daughter Katie was stranded at the Detroit airport due to treacherous weather conditions.I called Darrell to contact Jeff to see if Katie could spend the night with his family. Jeff was not at.home, but he immediately called Sherry to tell her about Katie’s plight. Sherry and the family opened their home to her and made what could have been a terrible experience into a most pleasurable one. I was so grateful. I also have a vivid memory of Jeff at Levi and Shoshana’s wedding wheeling Eden around in a wheelchair because she had a full leg cast. Such a loving and attentive father.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have had the privilege of knowing the Zaslow family for over 34 years, particularly Jeff’s brother Darrell and his wife. They are an extraordinary group. I remember when my daughter Katie was stranded at the Detroit airport because of treacherous weather conditions. I called Darrell to contact Jeff to see if Katie could spend the night with Jeff’s family. Jeff was not at home, but he immediately called Sherry to tell her about Katie’s plight. Sherry and the family opened their home to her and made what could have been a terrible experience into a most pleasurable one. i was so grateful. I also have a vivid memory of Jeff at Levi and Shoshanna’s wedding wheeling Eden around in a wheelchair because her leg was in a full cast. Such a loving and attentive father.

  8. Victoria Noe says:

    In 1990, I was development director at Chicago House, a residential program for people living with AIDS. Jeff was at the Sun-Times and asked readers to invite him to dinner in their homes. So I invited him to have dinner with some of our residents.

    He came – not once, but twice – and wrote about the experience both times. For those old enough to remember, 1990 was still the height of the epidemic. Fear, misinformation, prejudice and outright hatred were everywhere.

    I remember talking to Jeff after his first dinner with the residents. He was deeply moved, and the columns he wrote were greatly appreciated.

    Now I’m a writer, too, though not in his league. He will continue to be an inspiration to me,.

    His generosity and goodness then and always will be greatly missed. My deepest sympathies to his family and the untold numbers of friends, colleagues and readers who will miss him deeply.

    Victoria Noe

  9. Nicole Frehsee says:

    I grew up down the street from Jeff and his family, and as a teenager, I babysat for his girls. (I remember changing Eden’s diapers, which makes me feel really old.)

    The first time I came over, Jeff gave me a tour of his house, and I remember being awestruck by his office. The walls were plastered with with articles he’d written and photos of him posing with the politicians and celebrities he’d interviewed. If memory serves, there was a particularly great shot of Bruce Springsteen.

    Something about that room must have inspired me, because I, too, became a writer. I’d touch base with Jeff whenever I was home from college, where I wrote for the Michigan Daily, and he’d lend career tips and encouragement. When I applied to the Master’s program at the Medill School of Journalism, Jeff wrote a recommendation letter on my behalf.

    As my career took off, I’d often email clips to Jeff, and he’d always respond. Being a leftie, he was especially interested in a 2005 story I wrote for Newsday about the health drawbacks of left-handedness. “If I die in the next two weeks from left-handedness, please bury me with my left hand over my heart,” he joked.

    I re-read that email with a heavy heart in the days since hearing about Jeff’s death. I know I speak for the rest of Pickwood Drive — and many, many others — when I say that I’m devastated by this loss.

    Jeff, you were a true inspiration.

    Nicole Frehsee

  10. martin leventon says:

    I only knew Jeff through my ex-wife who was a childhood friend of Jeff’s. I met him around 1982 at her house when he was jogging through her Broomall neighborhood. He came to our wedding and we attended his in Buffalo, NY.

    Jeff apparently was a real prankster. One evening as the story goes she and Jeff were going somewhere and Jeff gets out of his car at a light and knocks on the window of another car and says “my father is Danny Ozark (manager of the Phillies at that time) and he won’t let me back in the house unless I new the score of the Phillies game”

    A few years later we decided to play a prank on Jeff. He was on the Larry King Show when Larry was just starting out and Larry was taking lots of calls. We had known Jeff had interviewed Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead so I called in and got through and asked Jeff what it was like interviewing Jerry Garcia. Larry said to Jeff ” I think this guy is a friend of yours do you know this caller” I think Jeff turned several colors of red.

    A few years later I think Jeff got me back. He was doing a story in the Wall Street Journal about “The People’s Court” TV show. I am a lawyer and at the time I was only practicing law for perhaps 4 or 5 years so it was like 1986. He could have called any Lawyer in the whole wide world but he called me at the office one day to get my perspective.

    I told Jeff that at least in Philadelphia where I practiced it was all a bunch of nonsense, trivial at best and that the cases never counted because they could automatically be appealed. Only I used a little stronger language for my distaste for the local process and Judges. The next day My Dad called me and said guess what? You were quoted on the Wall Street Journal. After I read the quotes I made sure my boss never saw the article and stayed away from small claims court for a while!

    I am so sorry I did not have the opportunity to know Jeff better. He was a beautiful human being. Jeff who wrote about “matters from the heart” is the type of person we don’t have enough of to go around. He was so right about hugging your own kids. My heart goes out to Sherry and his 3 daughters and his parents.

    My own 2 daughters live out of town so I could not give them hugs yesterday as Jeff advised us all to do but I certainly called them to tell them I love them.

  11. Ellie S. Grossman says:

    You made an everlasting first impression on me when we met briefly last month at the St Louis Jewish Book Festival at Plaza Frontenac. I thought it was so funny how you jumped right in and helped serve appetizers–blackened mahi mahi–to the guests in the audience before you took the stage and wowed us with stories about your bridal shop book. In the middle of the presentation your phone kept beeping, but you stayed on track. We all felt your emotion when you got the news alert that Gabby had resigned. I will remember you by how personally involved you became in the lives of everyone you wrote about. My heart goes out to your beautiful family and all the lives you’ve touched over the years. Thank you,

    Ellie S. Grossman

  12. Beth Rubin says:

    Our deepest condolences to the entire family. Our family knew Jeff via Our dear friend Julie who is like family to the Zaslows. Though we didn’t see Jeff often (usually just mutually attending Simchas in Julie’s life)…he always remembered us. He was fun to talk to, kind, genuine, and just such a nice guy. He always made us smile because he had a special greeting for Scott that he would say to Scott (usually whispered into his ear) that would get Scott laughing (no matter the event). Years would go by between events where we saw Jeff…but he always remembered. He was a special person that touched so many lives. May his memory be a blessing. – Beth and Scott Rubin

  13. Dear NEBBY,
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Jeff would’ve thought that greeting was great!
    I so enjoyed reading your letter of sharing your story. It is a very beautiful and heart warming tribute to Jeff and the virtues that he has taught all of us. Your curiosity with reading his papers is a reflection of what makes him Jeff. His own curiosity is what pulls the truths, thoughts and emotions out of everyone he talks to. I have been one of the lucky and many who has a friendship with the great Jeff.
    My story starts nearly two years ago on a beautiful spring day in May. I’m busy at work like we all are on most days. I’m absorbed in getting my clients details correct and spending back to back hours in alterations on brides dresses. Without me initially knowing it, calls were coming in from “some guy” at the wall street journal.
    As the story proceeds, this wsj “guy” keeps calling throughout the day. I remember on what ends up being his seventh call to me, I am finally sitting at my desk 9 hours later. The phone rings it’s the wsj guy. One of my employees answers my phone, recognizes the relentless request on the phone, throws the phone in my lap and proclaims “this is that guy again, he’s called a million times today, he has a sexy voice, TAKE THE CALL” ! (only the young would care about that), I chuckled, made a rather funny gesture at her and took the call.
    That single call, well almost single, ended up changing the rest of my life and opening me up to the greatest teacher I have ever known. We talked he asked question, he told me he’s thinking of writing another book and wants to set it at a bridal salon. I listened, I still don’t know why the “guy from the wsj” is writing a book. I’m oblivious as to who is. He proceeds to tell me about some of his work such as The Last Lecture, and I was in disbelief. I love that book and have read it several times. I remember the huge roar I got out of him when after torturing him through avoidance all day I say “you didn’t write that book Randy Pausch did”! Our friendship was sealed at that point and he said we just have to meet. He was at my place two days later with signed copies of all of his books, and the rest is history. The Magic Room is now complete. The tribute to his daughters and all of our daughters is perfect and just as he wanted it. I agree with you, Jeff is where he deserves to be. He is writing with and questioning the greats. We all walk away with carrying on his values. Maybe we will all slow down a bit and hug our loved ones, do kind acts or just listen to anyone who needs it. Kindness and love has been portrayed with such passion from this man that the world has already benefited. I see those same traits in his children and Sherry. His work didn’t end here, it just multiplied by millions. His passing brought great loss and sorrow. One can’t help thinking what does all of this mean? In the big picture through all of these emotions comes a deeper awareness. An awareness of fragility, beauty, appreciation, dignity, curiosity and a true sense of unconditional love. Many people think words are words, Jeff is the giant who taught us that words, yes,are words. He was the best. The lesson he understood at the big level and gave to all of his students is that words are the vehicle to emotions.Through emotions we display who we are and what we need. I give thanks everyday for Jeff entering the lives of my family members. I give praise to Jeff for your existence here and how you so humbly touched everyone you have met. This is where he says “Oh, STOP it” ! So I will stop here for the time being. I will not STOP at trying to follow your examples, live a little kinder and to show my love. That I have you to thank for Mr. phone caller. Thanks for showing me how to slow down and enjoy life. Thanks for teaching me lifes greatest lessons… Thanks for teaching me how to appreciate!
    Shelley Becker Mueller

  14. jerry ostry says:

    HI I feel a need to share some thoughts on Jeff. While its been awhile since we were together well I was his roomate for about (I forget) 6months or less probably in 1983? He had just moved to chicago was my recollection. Nobody knew him too much. We lived together at 3950 N Lake Shore Drive 224D was the unit. I owned the unit, having bought it for $43,100 ! (my first acquisition in my 20’s). Quite a bargain even back then. He rented one of the bedrooms and paid me directly. While thats not exceptional I have 3 stories about him that are! And they dealt with morbidity and I think I should share, and like I say its almost 30 years ago but my memory serves me well (sometimes) as I’m 55 now. I never told anyone these things until now and for some reason this SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS was too inviting not to share them!

    FIRST, I remember coming home after a stint working at the Chicago Board of Trade and
    he was there somewhat shaken. I asked him how he was and he was disturbed, as a 10 or 11 year old korean girl had jumped out a probably 11th story window killing herself. Apparently she came home with a “B” or “C” as the story went, as her parents were somewhat strict, sending her to her room to reflect on her inadequate behaviour. So she killed herself out of shame. And Jeff was somewhat upset by it as our window looked out onto the roof of the garage (probably the reason the unit was $43,100) which was the final resting place of the young girl. I don’t think we talked about it that day but he was in deep thought, and I don’t know if he ever wrote about it in a diary or other paper but I’ve always been curious if he did. (let me know if you find something) It’s the first time I saw him in such deep thought and anguished like that.

    SECOND one day I came in and there was a common dining table. He had papers all over and I seem to remember he just was a prolific writer always writing stuff down. Well the papers he was reviewing were all over the table minus him. Was going to move the papers to get some room, and I noticed one of them was talking about some friend of his (or mine) I forget which, and he called him a “nebby nerd” and I thought wow the audacity! But just like his columns, I couldn’t put the papers down as they were quite interesting. I had to read on and after all, he wasnt there! So I continued to read it, and then he said “jerry is a nebby nerd too”. So now I’m getting pissed, I didn’t know what a “nebby nerd” meant but I never forgot it, but never confronted him either on it! So I never followed thru with it. Also curiosity got the best of me and i turned the page, and he was now talking of himself and he was bragging to himself that he could now move his pecs on command and was going to keep doing some sort of exercise so that in about a month of hard work, he could really move them good, i think it was push ups or something. Well by that time I decided to move the papers away in a pile so i could use the table. The next day I came in those papers were thrown away in the garbage can by him as i was emptying the trash in the garbage shute down the hall I saw them and you know I decided to keep those papers that commented on me and I’m pretty sure i still have them! I’m a prodigious saver (unfortunately). I’ve been trying to get rid of such things recently, ( I saw the TV show “hoarders” and I’m convinced that I might have a similar disease) as I used to have a show on TV26 with like 100 3/4 inch tapes and just tossed them recently, realizing the old technology and my being on them wouldnt interest anyone in the future. I also found some old arrest records from another college age roomate who was arrested for theft in our college town. I bailed him out and now he is a
    bigshot at the Mercantile Exchange CME. I got the guy his first job intro at the exchange many years ago as well. I showed them by e mail recently to a now former girlfriend recently and turned out she had connections to the OCCUPY movement and she wound up sharing them somehow and (maybe) embarrassing the exchange (which they apparently feel is part of Wall Street) possibly so don’t worry Jeffs papers won’t be distributed by e mail anytime soon(I learned my lesson). I still have my stuff from Indian guides as a child and crazy momentos from grade school (just ran into my old report cards) and I realized it was the 50th anniversary of my kindergarten class this year and thought maybe someone might want a reunion!. Well enough of the rambling.

    THIRD he was hired as a financial writer yet knew absolutely nothing about financial futures or commodities. I was on the floor, and an analyst and broker for Bache (I think at the time thats where I was). Well anyway here I was training a guy 2 years younger than me how to write for the Wall St Journal and I’m thinking is WSJ serious, hiring this guy who knew nothing about futures? I brought him down to the floor for a tour for the first time he ever was on the floor and introduced him to some key people. He was writing his first article at WSJ and my recollection it was about soybeans or options on futures or some other commodities. Im thinking to myself “good luck with that WSJ” as I chuckled to myself. Well I read the article in the next days paper and I turned white! I was astounded at the accuracy and the well written nature of this piece. And it was by Jeff Zaslow. I was convinced that this kid was the greatest writer the world had ever seen. Well he told me he knew nothing about the markets yet here he was a financial writer for WSJ and frankly the article was one of the best intricate pieces of art I’ve ever read! I couldnt believe it! I was so impressed by his abilities I was convinced that day that I was in the presence of greatness. I never doubted his abilities to write about ANYTHING after that! He asked me what I thought I said “great job” but nothing more. I never told him he was a genius
    and never told him he was the greatest writer I had ever read in the financial or other area. (although I did like Mike Royko) Even frankly his “nebby nerd” article was so well written I couldnt’ put the paper down and it was such a funny and well done piece, I felt it was valuable and felt I couldnt throw it away. And so it was.

    And so we eventually parted ways. He found another place, I moved out myself before he did. When he did move out he left a big gash in the wooden parquet floors which cost me (to have it refinished) and I did have a security deposit. I had to get it fixed and I remember he felt it wasnt fair to charge that much for that, and he wrote me an eloquent note which convinced me to split the difference with him over that, (I don’t remember the amount$ maybe $200). I probably would have given him the whole thing back but like i say he called me a “nebby nerd” whatever that was! So maybe it was my way of getting back at him for saying that. I never really told him about me reading that and to this day it’s bothered me (since I obviously shouldnt have been reading his stuff but his writing was so interesting I couldnt help myself) so I decided to put his share of the $100 into some charity in his name in the next month or so to make it “right” for him.

    We never really got together after that but we’d run into each other at exchange events
    or some parties and I’d see him on the other side of the room or social setting. To this day, given my own financial column at Bache and celebrity and being on TV with a financial show on TV 26 I honestly think I was jealous of his talents!
    I used to see him on the other side of the room or social setting or at another part of the exchange floor in Chicago over the years on occasion and we would both acknowledge each other with a nod. However I silently looked on at him with utter amazement standing over there talking as his celebrity rose month after month, and that will be my image of him as I still see him, not in my presence but with others. He is discussing concerns of others, talking with the greats! He is in great company up there. Think of him that way and you won’t feel remorse and sadness. Understand that Mark Twain, Carl Sandburg of Elmhurst, Saul Bellow of Chicago, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Melville, Homer, Dickins, Faulkner, had nothing on the great ZASLOW! But be comforted by the fact that ZAZZ is NOW with all of these people, discussing literature in eternity. He’s now making his way thru that crowd with ease, holding his own. He is the newcomer Zaslow on the street of Heaven in the company of these other greats. HE is NOW one for eternity. He does not belong to us anymore. HE BELONGS TO THE AGES. He is fine! And comfortable moving around with the likes of Mike Royko (whom I also met) and other Chicago writers, comparing notes, getting comfortable with his new position in the heavens. So from afar I always realized he was the greatest writer of all time hands down. I was there! I saw! I knew it! And I still see him smiling in the corner of the room talking with others in deep conversation, obviously listening to others concerns and ideas and putting their interests in front of his own and thats my image of him now. RIP Jeff. THE NEBBY NERD 🙂

  15. Ann Degenshein says:

    I have been a fan of Mr. Zaslow since the first book but like most people knew nothing about his wonderful family including his beautiful wife and three daughters (who by all accounts are as beautiful on the inside). Today’s date brought me back to my father’s funeral in 1996 which was the day before or on Valentine’s Day. I no longer remember which but the “holiday” took on a different meaning after. The first few years were bittersweet but as time passed, it evolved in to a more special day because of my dad. After all he sent me my first valentine card and was the one constant sender every year thereafter through my teens and twenties as boy friends came and went. Deepest condolences.

  16. I’d like to (humbly) share my blog ramblings on how hard this hit me. Jeff and I worked together briefly at The Orlando Sentinel.

  17. I’d like to (humbly) share my blog post ramblings on how hard this hit me. Jeff and I worked together briefly at The Orlando Sentinel.

  18. Sue Meyer Koppel says:

    The first and only article I ever wrote for a newspaper was at the urging of Jeff. He was a creative writing major and editor of, “The Tartan” at Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU); I was a psychology major and co-director of the student-run counseling center. He wanted me to write an article on helping friends with personal problems. I told him I wasn’t much of a writer and to ask someone else. He told me I was the perfect person for the job.

    More than 30 years later, since learning of his tragic death, friends have asked me to write a tribute to him. Once again, I tell people I’m not a writer. However, as possibly the person in St. Louis who has known him the longest, I feel compelled to write.

    Jeff was a member of Pi Lam Fraternity. Unlike other frats, this one was a very low-key, welcoming place with various sitting rooms and fireplaces. I’m sure there were drinking and drug use, but it wasn’t in plain sight, and it was an easy going place in which to relax and talk. I spent several evenings visiting with the brothers, and always enjoyed my conversations with Jeff.

    Even when we were in college, Jeff’s writing ability was well-respected. My roommate and I eagerly looked forward to reading his column. The most memorable one was when he wrote about the three weeks he spent as a transfer student at Columbia University, how much he hated it there, and how he couldn’t wait to get back to CMU.

    I had the pleasure of seeing him again when he came to St. Louis to speak at various events for the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. With all the thousands of people I’m sure he’s met in his life, he always remembered me, greeted me by name, and gave me a warm embrace. Once such encounter is particularly memorable.

    Three years ago, after returning from parents’ weekend at CMU where our son had just started college, my husband and I attended Jeff’s talk at the festival. I had brought back a copy of, “The Tartan” for the expressed purpose of giving it to Jeff. Perhaps as a sign of our times, one of his handlers tried to block me from giving Jeff the newspaper. Before security could be called to deal with me, Jeff broke away, called my name and rushed over to hug me! I was vindicated. To say Jeff was a mensch would be an understatement.

    I am especially grateful that my husband and I got to have dinner with him 3 weeks ago when he was in town.

  19. Jeff wrote column about a charitable deed I did in 2000.

    Two years later, my husband and I founded a charity based on Jeff’s hands on charitable work. We started with Letters to Santa and Jeff taught me how to do it. I still have his many notes and lists of schools and donors. He held my hand as I learned the ropes and was always there to support me if I needed his help. He would periodicity send emails telling me how proud he was of what I was doing and I would sometimes call him for his ideas on new programs. He was always excited to help.

    Since that time, my charity has flourished and over 100,000 kids have received personal gifts via our Letters to Santa program. I truly believe that I would have never started this work if not for Jeff. I love the work he has taught me and could not imagine doing anything else.

    Jeff teachings will live on for many years through many people and make the world a better place.

    Thousands of kids benefit each year as a result from the work he started, at least in my little corner of the world. How wonderful that he got to touch so many corners of the world and his spirit will truly live on in infamy.

    May peace be with you all as you walk into your new lives. Know, he is walking with you and most of all, thank you for sharing him with the world.


    Michelle DiGiacomo

  20. Ellen Hechler says:

    I am sorry for your loss. I used to run into Jeff at the Post Office when he worked at the Sun TImes. He would be sending his articles to Chicago. We would talk and he used to tell stories of what his job was like. Many years ago, I remember seeing Sherry and Jeff eating at Ram’s Horn thinking about their children and needing a baby sitter. I was planning on applying for the job. I just never got around to it. I also remember I went to Chicago for the Party that Jef’f’s paper sponsored. He was a great all around guy. Your family is a great family and again I am sorry for your loss.

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