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After Loss, Celebrating Their Parents' Love And Legacy


On this Valentine's Day weekend, a love story. Mel and Sally Rushfield were married for just one month shy of 58 years. Mel died in 2019. Sally Rushfield died Friday of complications from Alzheimer's. She had just turned 86 years old. Mel and Sally were the parents of our own esteemed technical director, Stu Rushfield, and his sister, Debbie Rushfield. They join us this morning. Thanks so much, both of you, for being with us.

DEBBIE RUSHFIELD: Thank you for having us.

STU RUSHFIELD, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Well, just tell us about Mel and Sally - who they were as people, who they were together.

D RUSHFIELD: They were the sweetest, most loving, attached, adorable couple. My mom was a kindergarten teacher, and she stopped working when I was born, and she stayed home with us. My dad worked tirelessly. He came home and did paperwork, and he cleaned the house with my mom on Saturdays. And we had dinner together every night. We were that kind of family.

SIMON: Stu, you've been tweeting out some pictures that, I guess, were surrounding your mother as she went through her last days. When you look at some, like their wedding photo or old photos, and see them together, what do you think they found in each other?

S RUSHFIELD: I just think they found two good souls. My mom is from the Bronx. My dad is from Brooklyn.

SIMON: Oh, mixed marriage, then.

S RUSHFIELD: I know. I know. They were introduced by my dad's cousin in the Catskills, and it was instantly a love story for them. I think they just loved spending time together. They never did fancy things, but they just wanted to be together. It was about togetherness, and that turned out to be how it was for the entire family.

SIMON: Yeah.

D RUSHFIELD: There was nothing better for my parents than having their family around. And when their grandkids came along, well, hello.

S RUSHFIELD: Actually, it was goodbye, New York, because once they had three grandkids, two of whom were born within two days of each other, they left New York and moved to Maryland so they could be within just a few minutes of all their grandkids.

D RUSHFIELD: Yeah. You know, my nephews and my kids, their joy was having their meemaw (ph) and grandpa everywhere - going to every play, every grandparents' day.

S RUSHFIELD: They went to all of my nephew's baseball games. He played all the way through his senior year in high school. Poor Meemaw actually took a foul ball off the top of her head at one game.

D RUSHFIELD: I can picture it. And it went snock (ph), as my mother would say. There was a lot of blood, and we called 911. And as the medics were taking her off the field on a stretcher, she did a thumbs-up, and everybody was cheering.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh.

D RUSHFIELD: She ended up getting six staples in her head, but the team signed the baseball for her. Everybody on the team signed for Meemaw.

SIMON: My God. That's love.

D RUSHFIELD: Everybody knew Meemaw and Grandpa. On Stu's, you know, side, with all of his friends and mine, Meemaw and Grandpa were loved.

SIMON: Sunday, Valentine's Day, Mel and Sally will be reunited, won't they?

D RUSHFIELD: You know, in the Jewish religion, you're supposed to have the funeral within 48 hours. And I know that my mom didn't want to go through another Valentine's Day without my father. When he died, her Alzheimer's was definitely progressing. Half the time she knew what had happened, and half the time she didn't. But she was so lonely without him, and there was such a huge piece of her missing. It was unbearable. And now they will never be apart on Valentine's Day ever again - ever again.

SIMON: Stu, we want to play some music for your parents. Any suggestion?

S RUSHFIELD: The one song that for years and years made my mom tear up was from "Fiddler On The Roof." And it was "Sunrise, Sunset."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Tevye, singing) Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?

S RUSHFIELD: Every time she heard it, she would cry and think about people who've come before and the people who are here now and the people who will come later on.

D RUSHFIELD: We played it for her many times this week. I know she could hear it.

SIMON: Stu Rushfield is our beloved technical director, Debbie Rushfield - his sister. And they're remembering their parents, Mel and Sally Rushfield. Condolences to their families and our thanks to them on this Valentine's weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly flow the days. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stu Rushfield