Willy Grossman
Willy Grossman January 13, 1945-April 7, 2012

Married to Lynne Grossman, they had three children

(History given by his wife Lynne)

Will was a holocaust survivor, born in a concentration camp in Chernovitz, then in Romania. They were able to survive partially because Will's mother was a seamstress who sewed dresses for the Nazis' wives They were liberated by the Russians, but Will's father was immediately conscripted by the Russian army. His father later lost a leg in battle.

After the war the family emigrated to Israel when Will was 5 yrs old. They lost everything trying to get out of Europe. They had tried to hide jewels but officials at the border tore their possessions apart and seized their valuables.

The family spent the first year in Israel in a tent camp in the desert. Sand covered everything. They then moved to a development town outside of Tel Aviv. Life was a struggle. His grandmother lived with them but she had breast cancer and needed much attention by Will's mother. Will's father would have to travel to Jerusalem for jobs and during the work week would sleep on a roof. The father was eventually able to get better work because of skills he had learned in the family owned leather factory back in Chernowitz. However, because of the long hours, his father was unable to spend much time with Will.

Will, nevertheless, had fond memories of his time in Israel. He had good friends there and excelled in athletics, especially soccer. He delighted in the fruit orchard behind his house and in riding his bike to the market to pick up the live chickens for the family dinner that night.

In the meantime two uncles had emigrated to the United States. One of them owned a factory in Providence. That uncle, ready to retire, asked Will's father to move to the US and take over the factory. Again the family gave up everything. Will especially remembered losing his beloved bike and dog. Just as they were boarding the ship for the US, they got word that the uncle had changed his mind and sold the factory to someone else.

Nevertheless they continued the journey to the U.S. and eventually set up their household in Brooklyn. Will's English was poor, but he slowly improved through listening to baseball games and going to movies. Just like in Israel his athletic skills and his ability to make good friends helped him to succeed. His life centered around the family. Shabbat dinner was at the core of their weekly structure.

Will was drafted during the Vietnam War, but because he was deaf in one ear, he was not sent overseas . He was stationed in Denver where he met his future wife, Lynne, at a synagogue dance. They were immediately attracted to each other. Will called her the next morning and asked her if the previous night had been a dream. They were engaged 3 days after the dance.

Another major move was in store for Will. Lynne's father, living in Durham and planning to retire, asked the newly married couple to relocate and take over the family owned clothing business. One more time, Will upended his life to move. One more time, plans did not work out as intended. The father decided not to retire and kept the business.

But Will had a sharp mind and his life experiences had taught him how to re-invent himself when necessary. Over the years in Durham, a major career path involved his love of visual arts. He owned and ran a camera shop for 12 years. He helped to promote the art of photography in the Triangle. His own photographs were high quality and one store was still selling his photos 3 years after his passing.

But there were some factors that remained constant. First of all, his life was always centered on the family. According to Lynne, if Will "had a choice of spending time with his children or with the Queen of England, he would always choose the children." Another characteristic was his generosity. He would never pass anyone with their hand out without giving something.

Will remained very connected to the Jewish community. After he retired, he was the director of the North Carolina Jewish Heritage program, chronicalling the history of Jews in North Carolina. This was particularly satisfying for him. He also was deeply involved with Beth El's Chevra Kadisha (burial society)