So Long, Madelaine, With Love, Jimmy

Sunday morning I got a message: My friend Madelaine had passed away, there was a wake that afternoon, did I need a ride. I gladly accepted Michele’s kind offer, as I have no idea where Bay Ridge is, and now having been there, I still don’t know.

Madelaine Schwendeman. The news wasn’t a total shock; she seemed pretty old when I first met her some 20 odd years ago. And what a mouthful that name was. Of course it had to have that long-A in there: mad-uh-layne instead of mad-uh-lynn. God forbid it rhyme and be easy to say. But she was prickly like that. Not in a nasty way, mind you. She was a feisty old broad. Spoke her mind, and was funny as hell.

I can’t pretend I was super close with her. Probably most at the wake worked much more closely with her, and knew her much better. I first knew her as the woman you went to when you needed new business cards or notepads printed up. That didn’t always mean you’d been promoted; the company liked to shift departments to different floors, different buildings, seemingly at a whim sometimes, as if to say, “Hey, don’t get too comfortable.”

Still, Madelaine seemed pretty comfortable. She shared a space with gruff-but-lovable Ed Schumacher. (Why yes, of course he had a beard, it is standard issue among the gruff and husky.) There’s that cliché of describing two friends “like an old married couple” but they really did seem like that. You could imagine him buried behind the newspaper on the easy chair, her saying, “Ed. Ed! Look what’s on the television,” him grunting in return, but the truth is they each had their own lives that they went home to. Ed was building a house. Ed was retiring and we had a “day” for him, we all got lanyards with a caricature of Ed on there, it was nice. Ed retired and soon thereafter he dropped dead. Sad shit, you know? There’s a lesson in there somewhere but I don’t really want to think about it right now.

So I’d come by sometimes, to drop something off, or maybe I was getting a new card or whatever. Maybe she got some satisfaction, laying all those names out on the business cards, the short names, the long ones, they all looked good in a nice clean typeface. Who knows. Anyway, we had a nice little rapport, Madelaine and I. We snappy ones tend to find each other.

And then there were the Super Bowl pools. I’d come by with the sheet, ten bucks a square. Ed never got one but Madelaine always grabbed a couple. Of course her name didn’t fit in that little rectangle, she eventually switched to “Madelaine S.” and then just plain “Mad.”

Did she win? Eh, I don’t remember. Probably not. Nobody ever wins, or so it seems.

Somewhere in there she started calling me Jimmy. Not all the time, mind you. But sometimes. There was my buddy Jimmy in the office, but aside from a general Hebraic similarity we don’t look a whole lot alike. And she did know who I was. Jack Silbert sent out the Super Bowl email and then minutes later, I’d show up at her desk. She never called me Jimmy then. But I’d run into her around the office now and then, and it’d be “Hello Jimmy.” I wouldn’t correct her or anything. Life is complicated enough. Though I have to admit, it was a little unnerving. Not bad, but just a little bit.

Then Madelaine retired. There was the send-off, the gift. She got one last zinger in toward the company but other people tell that story better than I do.

She’d worked a long time. Sixty years, I think somebody said. And, you know, they started an intranet thing where you could type in your own business-card information. Even the Super Bowl pool went online. So, why not, go home, relax a little.

The crew invited me out to a happy hour or two during her post-employment time. Madelaine enjoyed a lovely cocktail from time to time. It was real nice to see her, there at the back table at Puck Fair.

And suddenly I’m at a wake. I’m not at the company anymore, so, really good to see some of the gang. And then, others I hadn’t seen in years. Therese and Kathleen and Kathleen and Kathy and Mimi and Jimmy and Jim and Debbie and Anne and Jerry and Kim and Elaine and Russ and Eric and Alyson and Michele and plenty of Madelaine’s relatives and friends. They show up when you’re a good person.

Kathleen said, “She had such a crush on you, you know.” I never know. Still, that made me happy to hear.

I’ll ask my friend Emily out in Oregon if she got word to Gretchen out there. I was still in touch with her when Ed passed but I’m not anymore, which is sad, I liked her a bunch. But she’d certainly want to know.

Nice place, that funeral home. I guess most of them are, right? We were in a nautical-themed room. That’s calming. On another wall there were some old-timey menus. Did there used to be a restaurant here? I’ll Google that maybe. I picked up one of those laminated cards they have at memorial services sometimes, for my own macabre little trading-card collection. (“Got it, got it, need it, got it.”) Nice to have a little keepsake. Up at the front was something I hadn’t seen before. A certificate of sorts posted up, her name filled in, “_____________ is hereby enrolled in the Purgatorial Society….” Now, I don’t know anything, I’m a Jew, I’m a man of science. But at first blush that sounded kind of negative to me. Therese reassured me that it’s just a waiting room on the way to heaven. I certainly hope so. Like I said, Madelaine seemed like good people to me.

Before I left the funeral home—Michele was giving a few of us a ride back into Manhattan—I talked a little with Jim Brownell. He is a sweet-hearted suspender-wearing son-of-a-bitch who also retired quite a while back. He reminded me that the last time we’d seen one another was at the memorial for Herman Masin back in 2010. I joked that we should try to get invited to a christening next time. He mentioned that Madelaine had also been there and I realized it was the last time I saw her. The three of us walked to the subway, down the avenue together. Not a bad memory for me to tuck away, so thank you, Jim.

Now, I guess I could end there, draw some parallel to Madelaine and I leaving a funeral home, and now here I was, walking out alone, but, I don’t know, that seems kind of downbeat. So instead I’ll jump back a handful of years to a favorite story. I was up in the cafeteria at work, and there was Madelaine. And my pal Jimmy was with me. So I thought, this is perfect, we are going to set the record straight once and for all. I grabbed Jimmy and we walked over to say hello.

“Well, what do you know,” Madelaine said. “Two Jimmies!”

22 responses to “So Long, Madelaine, With Love, Jimmy”

  1. Marian

    loved the piece Jack i can hear Madelaine laughing
    while she reads this she’s with her buddy Lucy
    now lots of scholastic gossip to catch up on
    thanks again Jack

  2. Michele

    Loved it, especially the ending. Thanks JiiiiiJack, you are one terrific writer.

  3. Bruce Weber

    Hey Jimmy Jack: What a terrific piece! ‘Course you realize I was working with Madelaine before you were born. Herman and I always called her the Energizer Bunny because she never stopped moving. I’d hate to tell today’s advertising production folks how many different titles Madelaine was juggling back in those days (mid-60s). They’d probably be embarrassed. In those days, we’d have to paste up every page and layout sheet and see how everything fit and where would the runovers go and can we sneak in an extra ad? (We’ll make it work!) She was incredible!

    Though Herman always called her Madelaine, he always referred to her formally as Miss Schwendeman. “Take this downstairs and give it to Miss Schwendeman.” (Even when I became publisher, Herman still had me running his errands.)

    I never did get any information on the wake. I would have gotten there somehow. But out of sight, I guess. (And I didn’t know about Ed Schumacher, either.) Seeing all those first names in your tribute, I was able to put last names to most of them. Makes me all the more disappointed that I wasn’t there.

    Too many funerals, my friend. Let’s stick to road-racing!

  4. Lisa Feder-Feitel

    Jack…you are such a fine and funny person and you write with more heart than most anyone I know. Thank you for this wonderful piece, every word. I knew of Madelaine and most likely met her at least once in my many years at Scholastic Inc. Any friend of Lucy’s was and will always be a friend of mine, Jimmy.

  5. Sarah

    Such a smile this left me with!

  6. Shelly

    Not the best way to catch up–but so beautifully written–and so nice to visit with those of you who are here and those of you who are gone.

  7. CM

    What a nice tribute! And great ending.

  8. Richard Walsh


    It was great to read your memorial to Madelaine. I remember that office with Ed Schmacher, and you’re right the two of them were a pair: Ed,
    with that gruff voice and kind of hound dog carriage, and Madelaine fluttering around like a Jewish worker ant that smoked, enjoyed a cocktail and a good laugh. I always thought that if she ever stopped moving she would die. I guess that’s what happened, she just stopped one day.
    Where will we ever find the likes of people like that again:
    Madelaine Schwendeman
    Herman Masin
    Lucy Evankow
    Mary Jane Dutton
    Eric Oatman
    Jane Fleigel
    The caravan is moving on.

    Keep fighting the good fight.



  9. Davidsfr

    Richard Walsh asks:

    “Where will we ever find the likes of people like that again”

    Well you’re still around Richard! And last I heard John “Stone” Harris was also still with us.

  10. Joe H.

    Nicely done Jack. Madelaine was a classic dame, in the best sense of the word.

  11. Richard Walsh


    John T. died about four years ago. But he lived with AIDS since about 1984, so he had a good run. He WAS a character.


    1. Davidsfr

      Richard, that comment was from me, not Jack. Remember the 12 years I was stinking the place up?

      Sorry to hear about John, will think of him this Saturday night during “Are You Being Served?”

  12. Richard Walsh

    “I’m free.”
    And yes Jack I am still around. Not lived by my “sell-buy” date just yet.
    Glad to be in that company.
    Also include Renee Glaser, a character worth a dozen.


    Anything else, hit me on my email, this is getting to personal for a blog.

    Much love, Richard.

  13. Linda Scrivner

    I really enjoyed reading this!
    So many names of people I have interacted with during my 42 years with Scholastic in JC.
    I always enjoyed conversations with Madelaine, may she rest in peace..

  14. Joan Yankowitz


    I was so sad to find out that Madelaine passed away. I worked for her in the early 1970s in Advertising Production, and she was definitely a hoot!

    There are so many stories I could tell about those days, but I’ll just tell you my favorite.

    I mentioned to Madelaine that I heard that it snowed in Miami. Madelaine gave me her trademark look and said, “Snowed! How much could it have snowed…1 pica, 2 picas?”

    I have such fond memories of Madelaine, and I’m thrilled that she had such a wonderful sendoff with her old friends.

    My best to Bruce Weber and Jim Brownell. It’s been a lot of years…

    Thanks, Jack for such a great piece.

  15. Mary-Ann Ballenberg

    It’s been over 30 years since I left Scholastic, but seeing all those names brought me right back to 44th Street. I have an old issue of Scholastic Ink that had a special section done by the copy department and featured great, humorous pictures of Ed Schumacher and the rest of the crew cavorting in the office and on a then-tawdry 42nd Street. They were fun years.
    Thanks for the wonderful tribute to Madelaine…

  16. Lorraine Kidziak Keogh

    What a walk down memory lane!
    Many of the names in your piece, Jack, were unfamiliar to me since I left Scholastic
    in ’75. But, I worked with Madelaine for 5 years in advertising production when Herman
    Masin was still running Coach…(so his passing was sad to hear as well.)
    Those were very fun days. Madelaine was very generous and good to the “kids”. She
    definitely enjoyed a cocktail (or 2) which made for some ‘silly’ afternoons. It was
    a fun time and a great place to work. Thank you, and may she rest in peace.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.