OBITUARY

Jacqueline H. Lerner

December 31, 1929August 8, 2018
Play Tribute Movie Play Tribute Movie

Beginning November 1, 2018, a continuing compilation of Jacqueline’s recorded performances will be available on YouTube for all to enjoy perpetually, in her honor.

Jacquelin­­­e H. Lerner, renowned actress, world-class pianist and star in and out of the spotlight, departed our midst early Wednesday morning, AUGUST 8, 2018. She made a peaceful transition, in slumber, at her home of 50 years. Jacqueline’s final ascension capped a life replete with paramount achievements. Whether helping others, performing onstage, or facing down the most unexpected and greatest of trials, she met each with stalwart resolve and an irrepressible sense of humor. Jackie didn’t wait long to ­­­­­­­manifest either: during her mother’s early months of pregnancy, her obstetrician said: “This baby’s going to ruin my New Year’s Eve”. And, right on cue: December 31, 1929, at Newark, N.J.’s Beth­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Israel Hospital, Jacqueline Heyman made her debut- to the rave reviews of parents, Jerome and Ethel, and now, elder sibling, Marilyn. ­­­­­ The Heymans, with their ‘new addition’, returned to their Bradley Beach home, headed by Ethel’s parents: clan Pater and Mater, Samuel and Minnie Lowenstein. Jackie’s grandparents, along with the Shepard Vineburgs, had founded Temple Beth El, the first Conservative synagogue at the New Jersey shore; Ethel later served as Assistant to Rabbi Ario Hyams. This heritage of faith and tradition took root in young “Yocheved”- (Jacqueline’s Hebrew name, meaning "God's honor"); it became a cherished legacy that she & her husband would transmit to their children- and which burned brightly through the end of her days. Instilling character, starting life at once with The Great Depression affected Jackie profoundly- most notably when she overheard that her father had wrestled his suicide-intent brokerage partner back into their building via an office window. Her kindergarten teacher took Jackie in hand when venturing outside of the room, lest her fearful charge instigate a classroom cryfest. After school, the withdrawn toddler could be found in her 3rd-floor bedroom, tutoring her dolls in the lessons of the day. Cousin, (adopted ‘brother’), and esteemed theatrical director J. Laurence Lowenstein asserts that Jackie’s arrival in tandem with The Depression was no accident: “I will always believe that her joining the family was to cheer everyone up,” he said. “And she did.” ‘Quilly’, lovingly labeled by her mother, spent summer days frolicking in- and under- ocean waves, where mischievous but protective sister, ‘Matty’, enjoyed dunking her; on terra firma, Jackie discovered a passion for tennis, exchanging ground strokes, sans net, with State Champion Jerry, on 5th Avenue. Burgeoning with three generations of Lowensteins, Saturday nights saw Sam and Minnie transform their 204 5th Avenue house into a mecca of music and merriment for relatives, friends, guests, and the Bradley Beach community. Minnie’s birthday coincided with Yom Kippur, so the ‘break fast’ meal marked, not only the official end of the High Holy Days, but the start of a Lowenstein celebration. Jackie learned to temper fear with steadfast conviction and this legacy of levity. She spent most evening hours entertaining enamored neighb­­­­­­ors on their porch, re-enacting song-and-dance routines from the latest ‘Shirley Temple’ films. A visiting NY producer spotted her talent and asked: “How would you like to be on the radio?”. But the stranger’s proposition frightened Jackie sufficient to prompt a 1 ½-block sprint home to her parents and her piano. But, that was the last time that the budding entertainer would turn down a chance to perform in public. The budding teen conquered the haunts of World War II food rationing & four years riding in cars with blackened headlights to deter any peeking periscopes from targeting NJ beaches overnight. Having asked for piano lessons at age four, the now Asbury Park High School Drum Majorette gained admission to Yale University, which had extended its lone invitation to a NJ female applicant that year. Instead, Jackie opted for the University Of Michigan, which offered a double-Major program where she could study both music and drama. That decision did not come without angst, however; leaving the region meant parting from her classmate and would-be-fiancé, Jack M. Lerner. Now a 6’ 1” man-of-the-world, Jack had returned following four years of enlisted service aboard the historic USS Borum. Backed by fury-riddled elders, 16-year-old Jackie rejected his proposal and packed to begin her collegiate campaign. She interspersed classes and musical stints on Ann Arbor radio with trips home and visits, sprinkled with continued pitches from now Georgia University gridiron star, Jack. But, before graduation, ‘baby grand’, (a favorite moniker from family), was welcomed into the Julliard School Of Music. Surrounded by theatre artists in New York City, she delved into drama; and, upon official adult audition, Jackie took to the Metropolitan area radio waves- as an actress. Toasting her dad’s mastery of The Harvard Classics and poetic prowess, she added an alliterative flair to her name, deciding to appear as Jacqueline Jerome. She enrolled at the Herbert Berghof Acting School and became the protégée of legendary actress and renowned drama instructor, Uta Hagen. Jacqueline often remembered Miss Hagen with praise for lessons regarding life and its depiction. Pairing newly-inspired stage portrayals with ‘piano’ engagements at NYC’s Waldorf Astoria and Plaza hotels, Jackie harkened a call to Florida’s Fountainbleu. Success onstage and at the ‘spinet’ expanded career opportunities for the emerging personality. Taking one extended tour westward, she dotted noted locales spanning California. But, calling ‘The Big Apple’s theatre district home, Jackie mused that she could “roll out of bed and be at the studio” in time to demo pianos given away on Bill Cullen’s The Price Is Right at show time. Soon, she became the voice of Lady Esther Cosmetics, leading to guest appearances on CBS Television’s I’ve Got A Secret and What’s My Line?. CBS tapped her for a central role in the historic daytime drama The Guiding Light. Off-Broadway, she earned critics’ accolades for a heralded run as Julie Gillis in The Tender Trap. When ‘The Great White Way’ beckoned, the ripe artist responded. Stepping in for Anne Bancroft, she took a turn in Two For the Seesaw. Despite broadened social circles, Jackie remained close with friends and colleagues from her days as a tenderfoot. One Aristotelis Savalas, shy director of the first NY radio station where she had performed, had confided to the then-ingenue his secret desire to step out from behind-the-scenes as an actor. Directing and starring in summer stock theatre, she remembered her pal’s hushed ambition. His phone rang from upstate NY. “Telly!” exclaimed the familiar voice. “I’ve got a part you’d be perfect for! Why don’t you come up and give it a try?” His gratifying reply? The birth of a dream come true. ‘Jack’, (a favorite tag from closest friends), relished both the metronome of ‘Metropolis’ and rural rhythms. But, neither rivaled her personal guiding light: home and family. She maintained especially close contact with maturing nephew, Ted; years earlier, the youth had unearthed a shiny red fire engine hidden under her bed and cried: “Look what ‘Aunt Jappy’ has!”, drawing roars of laughter from Jackie, quickly spreading throughout the 4-story abode. Already endeared to her, Ted manifest a mild manner but quick wit, cementing a bond whose depth was matched only by its longevity. During one multi-weekly call home, Ethel informed her daughter that another Jack, the heartthrob whose ‘bended knee’ she’d rejected so often, had just broken his own engagement- to another woman. Wooed by many, Jackie remained entranced by none other. During a reunion, in his arms once again, the 13-year-holdout felt her love rekindled. On June 14, 1959, Jacqueline Heyman blissfully became Jacqueline H. Lerner. The two ‘Jacks’ settled into a new residence in NYC; he, with natural charisma and sales experience, took a foray into his wife’s domain, becoming Advertising Executive for NBC Television; ‘Shapes’ returned to her creative calling. She took a sojourn home to open The Monmouth Mall, (nee Monmouth Shopping Center), at the piano. Recruited to double for 1960 Tony Award nominee, Carol Burnett, ‘JHL’ spotted the down-to-earth star among the crowd at the Astor Hotel. When Miss Burnett’s name was called in rehearsal, Jackie rushed to the podium, effusing: “I can’t believe I won! And to think: last year, I was only a stand-in!” Head snapping stageward, the acclaimed comedienne unleashed her signature guffaw. Carol approached the emergent thespian with a hearty hug, showering her with kudos and encouragement. But, torn between her rising star and passionate devotion to her husband, Jackie faced the most difficult decision of her life, to date. Having waited so long for a commitment, Jack insisted on starting a family- in suburban NJ. Two years into the marriage, he posed an ultimatum. Jackie decided that life with the man she adored outweighed the promise of her individual dream. The Lerners’ plans to leave ‘The City’ firmed when the actress, entrenched as the central villainess on TV’s Love Of Life, found that she was already pregnant. The shocked couple informed the show’s brass, and writers penned the twist into the plotline. Ratings soared. But, true to her husband, Jackie left the show when her 6-month contract expired. She gave birth to Sherilyn (Claire), on June 25th 1962 in Orange, NJ. Ethel and Jerry, who had, long since left the shore for East Orange, enveloped the fledgling family in love. But, like her mom, Sherilyn drew early ostracism from childhood peers. Hiding within the familial cocoon, she became a fearful loner. Sherilyn implored her parents to give her a sister. When a heart attack claimed gentle Jerry in 1966, the child’s pleas intensified. Now, financially able to expand their family, Jack and Jackie gave their daughter fruitful news. And on May 20th, 1968, Jerette (bearing the torch of Jerry and Ethel’s names) Leslie burst into the world; Sherilyn, into joyful tears. One month hence, the foursome scaled the West Orange hills with the keys to their first house. Aided by beloved household helper, Laurett, Jackie made the most of her own domain. ‘Welcome’ became her mantra; ‘festivity’, her theme. Sunday mornings treated the family and weekend visitors to bagels and lox; ‘individual’, social, and traditional occasions portended parties- sometimes, of the ‘costume’ variety- and often featuring the celebrated ‘Schaum Tarte’. A most fêted dessert, its staunchly-guarded recipe has been passed down, only to directly-descending Lowenstein women; even from husbands and all friends its ingredients still remain secret. Jackie, Jack, and their daughters made frequent visits ‘down the shore’, calling upon another Lerner faction; Jack’s youngest brother, David, and Jackie had been pals since the early days of her courtship with Jack, when she chaperoned him to many a race track. “Don’t bet so much!”, he recounted ‘Heyman’ yelling. But, in recent months, he scripted: “You were a good luck charm then and… knowing tht fighting spirit you have, you’re still ‘top banana’!”. Dave’s daughters, Lori and Kim, indulged in fun, not only with their cousins, but with joyful Jackie. During one visit, son, Jon, ignoring parental orders to ‘Go to bed!’, finally stomped upstairs- but, reaching a landing, he whipped around, breaking into a most familiar TV theme song: “I’m so glad we had this time together…”. Jackie let loose with unbridled laughter. Decades later, during tumultuous times, and years after losing his mother, Jon would leave a message with Sherilyn to “tell my ‘Ant-I’ that she is the most influential woman in my life”. At Mountain Crest Swim Club, ‘JHL’ garnered a mantle of tennis trophies, while directing and starring in amateur productions of My Fair Lady and Guys and Dolls, her cabana the core of an extensive set of same. The former seasider’s aquatic skills translated well to calmer waters; onlookers admired her Esther Williams-esque grace as she stroked across the pool. Winters found her at nearby Eagle Rock Lanes, anchoring a championship bowling squad. But, in 1976, the Lerners’ life was altered- abruptly and forever. On Christmas Eve, planning a secular celebration for friends and family, the duo discovered that Jack had contracted lung cancer. The prognosis: 3 months. Deciding together, the party went on. Vigorous and brave, the ex-Navy boxer fought back. Jackie returned to work as the regular pianist at The Manor, a landmark fine dining spot in NJ. Her vast repertoire featured medleys highlighting Gershwin, New York City, and popular Broadway show scores. Despite her sober situation, Jackie engrossed patrons with her music and delighted colleagues with saucy jokes, spiced with precise global dialects. After 16 months, Jack finally succumbed. Widowed at age 48, this ‘Lerner Lady’ assumed the helm of her young family. With great support from Ethel, she continued, nightly, at the Manor and, studying by day, furthered the family field of finance. Jacqueline passed both required Broker exams on first trial. Climbing the ranks, she attained the position of Vice President at Vanderbilt Securities. Transitioning her musical theme song home, Jackie, “Tenderly”, combined her nurturing touch with unyielding mettle to play both ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to her growing daughters. While appreciative of visitors lending encouragement, she continued to dispense it to those seeking refuge from their own stormy situations. Fiercely loyal to family, she welcomed entire factions into her immediate world, prompting impassioned speeches of gratitude from niece Lori M., trying to captain her brood of five, with remote maternal counsel. ‘Aunt Jackie’- (‘Aunty J’ to Sherilyn’s best friend)- exuded universal magnetism, drawing close- and sheltering- lost souls walking erect, on paws, even bearing beaks. Tennis compelled Jackie to the courts daily, the only female in a group comprised of thirty-five men. She competed admirably, stepping aside only when ocular issues compromised her level of play. But nothing dampened her spirit; an ardent sports fan, she cheered even louder for her beloved Michigan Wolverines, the football Giants, the ‘Miracle Mets’, and rooted on her NJ Devils, not only during games, but at practices when they were held at the South Mountain Arena. Superstorm Sandy forced Jackie and Sherilyn out of their home in November, 2012. Sherilyn and their two cats and headed to neighbor and great family friend, Andy; ‘The Big Kitten’, named for her love of cats, soft hair and touch to match, took refuge with Jerette. When circumstances forced both to leave their temporary lodgings, the duo spent the next year traversing north and central NJ until a major auto accident hospitalized them. ‘Wonder Woman’, (Jackie’s lifelong comic book hero, whose name caught up with her), sustained a cracked sternum and broken rib- but she recovered before Sherilyn, who’d suffered a fractured ankle, did. Moving back home in December, 2015, Jacqueline returned to her grand piano, practicing with gusto. A new friend infringed upon one session in the midst of the ‘Gershwin’ medley. Reaching for her smartphone, the woman began to videotape; weeks later, she phoned Jacqueline with the news that Alan Gershwin, son of George, had seen the recording and had asked if he might come down from his Connecticut residence for a concerto at her home. Jacqueline had performed at international galas, for dignitaries visiting New York, along with stateside governors of upper eshelons. Of course, she extended a welcome but insisted on more ‘practice’ time to hone her skills sufficient to perform to her standards. Unfortunately, in the interim, the junior Gershwin suddenly took ill and passed away. Jackie’s evergreen spirit pervaded the years, her voice retaining the vibrance and sweetness of youth. Harmony her watchword, she applied it to music and to life. Pulpit leaders and fellow worshipers at her adopted north Jersey temple, Sharey Tefilo Israel, lauded the tones arising from beneath her signature hats. At her home piano, she quickly mastered and recorded “B’yado”, a temple hymn featuring dual synchronized melodies. During a recent hospital stay, nurses heard her harmonizing- through a nebulizer- to a recording of Yentl’s climactic “A Piece Of Sky”. Losing her cherished mother and sister in 1996 and 1997 respectively, Jacqueline found herself at the head of her extended family. ‘The Matriarch’ aimed to set an example of self-betterment and forgiveness for all, not only during the High Holy Days, but in every season. Jackie got off on the proverbial right foot with Jerette’s intended- playfully flipping him from his, over her shoulder, and onto a picnic table. Though shocked, Michael landed, bellowing with laughter. Thus began a fun and flirtatious rapport between Mike and ‘Mom’. One of many males among his brethren, Michael changed his surname to Lerner, affording his espoused family the best chance to carry on their name. Aside from Jacqueline’s own daughters, Jerette and Michael gave her the most cherished and greatly-anticipated gifts of her life: twin grandchildren Jack and Elexis, born, ironically, on June 25th, (2009). Newly-deemed ‘Grandy’ exalted her two-fold inheritance, named for her beloved husband and mother. Though born extremely prematurely, both children manifest the family cornerstone of strength- not only surviving, but flourishing. A supreme source of pride to The Matriarch, each unveiled manifold gifts inherited from her- most notably: compassion, creativity, intuitive intelligence, and depth of character. ‘Grandy’ time was of paramount joy, marked by kisses, music, and laughter; cultivating, under her baton, the talents that she imparted, and learning- via insight from her unique soul- that, while grief is transient, love endures. Friend and most recent household assistant, ‘Mike P.’, invoked a pet nickname bestowed upon Jaqueline by Sherilyn, on her mother’s 88th birthday: “88 Keys” left us on the 8th day of the 8th month, in 2018”, he remarked with a telling glint in his eye. It is said: ‘One who is known by many names is much-loved.’ From make-believe to Matriarch, this reverberating spirit personified magic- leaving a spark of hope in every soul she touched. J. Laurence Lowenstein, now retired drama Director and most sullen successor to his family’s ancestral Seat, recalls of his lifelong soulmate: “Jacqueline Heyman Jerome Lerner motivated me to chase my dream. When I graduated college, Jackie wrote a poem for me. It took a while. So, when she finished, she called it ‘OWED, (rather than ‘Ode’), For A Cousin’. I’d like to repay that ‘OWED’: When our grandfather lost Minnie, we heard his whispers of abiding adoration and awe. So, when Sam Lowenstein died, our rabbi said, ‘The Queen is dead. Long live the king’… Now, the Queen is dead. Long live her family.”

Services

  • Visiting Thursday, August 9, 2018
  • Funeral Service Friday, August 10, 2018
  • Burial Friday, August 10, 2018
REMEMBERING

Jacqueline H. Lerner

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
Daniel Luongo

August 9, 2018

Jackie was a great talent I performed with her many times she was a special woman ... I have been looking to connect with her again in the past few years ... May God Bless her & her family Sherilyn Please get in touch with me Daniel Luongo Facebook Your Mom was so SPECIAL in so many ways _ Danny

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY