By Kevin Coughlin
Sidney Schlosser was remembered on Tuesday as Morristown’s Forrest Gump, who rose from raccoon-hunting boyhood adventures to become a civic leader and prosperous businessman with the confidence and generosity to mentor his competitors.
“Sid was indeed a magnificent giant in so many ways…Sid was an institution,” said his rabbi of a quarter-century, Donald Rossoff, who returned to Temple B’nai Or, where Schlosser was a founding member, to address a funeral service packed with Schlosser’s family and friends.
Schlosser died peacefully at home on Sunday, one day after his 66th wedding anniversary with his wife Deenie. He was 91.
A lifelong Morristown resident, Schlosser was described as a people person who combined empathy and keen instincts in a series of successful endeavors.
He created the Schlosser-Lewis Insurance Agency, and co-founded the First Morris Bank and the Warwick Insurance Company. For 60 years he sold real estate with Richard Deskovick. He was a two-time president of B’nai Brith Morris County and, for 27 years, association president of the Beth Israel Cemetery, where he was laid to rest on Tuesday.
For more than six decades, Schlosser could be found nearly every morning at the Filling Station and, later, at the Morristown Diner, holding forth with a group of movers and shakers casually known as the Morristown Breakfast Club.
“They knew most everything that happened in Morristown by 8:30 in the morning,” said Schlosser’s son, Bill Schlosser.
“On occasion when I went into the Morristown Diner, I would be set upon by the Morristown Breakfast Club,” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) said with a smile, prior to Tuesday’s service.
Schlosser, a friend to Frelinghuysen and to his late father, Rep. Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen Jr., “was extremely gracious. I enjoyed his company. He was always lively and entertaining,” the congressman said.
‘ARE YOU COMFORTABLE?’
Caya Schlosser said her grandfather began every gathering by asking, “Are you comfortable?” She remembered a loving and supportive granddad, and a hard-working role model.
“His success never led to an excess of ambition or greed,” she said. Fondly, she recalled a master raconteur, sitting on the porch of the family summer home in Chautauqua, NY, sharing a treasure trove of tales about his early “Morristown shenanigans.”
“He really was Mr. Morristown,” said family friend Dan Barkin. “We’d go to a [Morristown] football game, and he’d not only tell you about the players’ parents, but also about their grandparents, and where they worked. I enjoyed talking to Sid as much as watching the game.”
Sid Schlosser’s father ran the Hamilton House Restaurant in Morristown from 1922 to 1950 and was a founding member and past president of the Morristown Jewish Center. Sid’s uncle, Emil Newmark, often took the boy fishing and coon hunting. The rascal managed to escape town when his siblings were scheduled for tonsillectomies, Bill Schlosser noted.
Along the way, Sid Schlosser got to know just about anybody who was anybody in Morristown.
“When most of us drive around town we don’t take notice of the names of streets or apartments. But they were not just names for Sid,” said Bill. His dad knew legendary mayors Clyde Potts and Parsons Todd, and Tony Cattano (Cattano Avenue), and George Mennen (Mennen Arena).
During the Depression, the family lived in the Washington Hotel, where the Super Gold Deli and Convenience Store now stands. Gypsies and circus performers stayed there. So did Seeing Eye founder Morris Frank and his guide dog Buddy, when the nonprofit’s headquarters were under construction.
Sid Schlosser’s counselor at sleep-away camp was Red Auerbach, the famed Boston Celtics coach. At Illinois University, he roomed with Morristown native Gene Shalit, later of Today show fame. At Morristown High (’42), where he played varsity basketball, Schlosserr was a ball boy for revered football Coach Billy Flynn.
“He had a Forrest Gump kind of life,” Bill Schlosser said of his father, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and then studied at Drew University.
A sense of loyalty and community informed Sid Schlosser’s choices about where to eat, where to shop, and even where to gas up.
“We didn’t go to just any gas station; we went to Tommy Lade’s Texaco or Joe Commelotto’s Shell because they were his friends,” Bill said. “It was always about the people. He had a certain way that he connected to people.”
That even extended to business rivals, said his son.
‘WHAT JUST HAPPENED?’
Bill recounted how his father took Jim Connors to visit a neighbor, who happened to own the Morris Street building where Connors –who was just starting out and had no money — rented an office for his fledgling insurance business.
Sid Schlosser “had it in his head that Jim needed to buy the building,” Bill said. When they left the woman’s home, Connors looked at Sid and asked, What just happened? “Sid said, ‘You just bought the building.'”
For no money down. A short walk from Sid’s insurance business. “Who does that for their competitor?”
In addition to his wife, the former Deenie Raas, Sidney G. Schlosser is survived by his children, Judy Schlosser and her husband Larry Enten (Washington DC), Alise and Marty Ford (Mendham), Bill and Stacey Schlosser (Morristown); and six grandchildren: Joseph (and fiancée Kate Dickerson) and Michael Enten, Samantha and Jacob Ford, and Caya and Scott Schlosser; and by his sister, Babette Bergner.
He is predeceased by his grandson Marc Hamilton Schlosser and his sister Elaine Lewis. He and Deenie wintered in Delray Beach, FL, and summered in Chautauqua for the last 30 years.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Sid’s memory may be made to the Temple B’nai Or Endowment Fund.