Remembering Jordan Rose and Court Rich’s grandmother in a touching tribute

Julia, circa 1941, age 21.

By Bert Stratton | Rose Law Group Reporter


I was at the cemetery the other day. I like the place. Someday I’ll be 20 feet from stardom — my mom’s plot. I have a burial plot 20 feet away. I’m a mama’s boy. Julia Zalk Stratton, my mother, died 20 years ago (March 11, 2004).

I never left Cleveland, because of my mom. It’s not that I didn’t try to leave, but I never found a better situation, geographically or psychologically. Some college buddies — hippie-types — wouldn’t even go home for school breaks; they didn’t want to appear middle-class even for a weekend. They would head to Boston or go into the woods. I went home.

When my mother died at 83, her sister told me not to grieve too much. Aunt Celeste said my mother would prefer I act upbeat. Hah.

My mother requested somebody (turned out to be my brother-in-law) read aloud a college essay of mine at her funeral . . .

In memory of my mother, on the 20th anniversary of her death. This essay was written by a college boy in 1971.

My mother . . .

She gave me ginger ale when I was sick, and even played catch with me once on the sidewalk. She greeted me all the time with the same happy “Hello, Alberto,” even when she, herself, was sick.

My mother sang in the mothers’ chorus when I was in elementary school, was a room mother with orange drink, and was a den mother. My mother went to see me every time I had a part in the school play, a solo in the schools, or a tennis match, even though I’d often tell her to stay away from the tennis matches. Spectators made me nervous. For big matches, she’d drive me to the courts and come get me when it was all over.

My mother told me to keep my room straight. She told me to be happy. She told me to go to medical school.

My mother came up from the South and found Cleveland to be her real home, with delis and streetcars. My mother was beautiful in her 1940s long black hair. My mother wheeled me in a baby carriage through Cleveland streets when I was one year old before we moved to South Euclid.

My mother read a book in a second and forgot it the next. My mother baked castle birthday cakes and ship birthday cakes, looking up cake designs in cake books, like she looked up sweater patterns in sweater books. In our front room, she measured my sleeve for a new sweater, knitted in December.

My mother always told me to do my best and have a good time. In second grade she told me to “mind my manners,” and I’d had a lousy time at Doug Cormack’s birthday party, so it was then she switched to “have a good time.”

As I write this, my mother is in South Euclid, and I’m in Ann Arbor, and my sister, Leslie, is in Columbus with her husband and baby. The family is tied together by my mother.

My mother still plays tennis nearly every day. She plays bridge. She goes to Sisterhood meetings. She doesn’t let up for a second. She sweeps the carpet all the time. She’s always picking up — me and everybody else.

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March 2024