Morley Gwirtzman

Obituary of Morley Gwirtzman

Morley Gwirtzman passed away peacefully in the presence of his family, November 29, 2020, at age 81, in his hometown of Rochester, New York.

Morley is preceded in death by his parents, Sam and Hazel Gwirtzman, aunt, Janet Holstein, sister, Honora (Melvin) Lang, in-laws, Louis and Evelyn Williams, and sister-in-law, Rita (Melvin) Kurland. Morley is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Wendy Gwirtzman, children, Lisa (Giuseppe) De Marco and Daniel (Stefanos) Gwirtzman, granddaughter, Giada De Marco, sister, Ann (Arthur) Kolko along with nieces and nephews, Joel (Beth) Kurland, Andrew (Dvora) Lang, Tracy (Mike) Podol, Kevin (Eileen) Lang, Rebecca (Aaron) Friedlander, Jon (Jess) Kolko, grandnieces and grandnephews, Josh, Rachel, Noam, Hannah, Danica, many cousins, extended family in Italy and Greece, and countless wonderful dear friends.

Morley was born in Rochester, New York to Sam and Hazel Gwirtzman on January 26, 1939. He was born with a rare blood disease that was known to be fatal, yet he survived. In kindergarten, his hearing loss was discovered, possibly from blood transfusions given at birth. He wore hearing aids ever since and was grateful to the Rochester school system for giving him both one-on-one speech lessons, and to Herman Goldberg for teaching him to lip read in his office when Morley was seven years old.

He graduated Monroe High School in 1956 and went on to pursue a degree in Business Administration from the University of Michigan, where he worked for The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, performed in theatrical productions, and developed lifelong friends. Upon graduation, he immediately headed to New York City to work in the advertising field. A year later, his father called him home to Rochester to help out at the family business, Advance Optical, a wholesale optical laboratory and supply company founded in 1922. Morley subsequently took over direction of the company until his retirement in 2009.

Morley was a valued member of the optical industry, highly respected for his comprehensive knowledge, and even more regarded for his kindness and generosity that was evident in every interaction that he had. He was inducted into the Optical Laboratories Association Hall of Fame as an “Optical Pioneer” in 2009.

Morley’s work ethic was exemplified in all that he did: his impeccable attention to detail, his genuine curiosity and interest in his work, and his complete and utter attention to the relationships he formed over the course of 50 years in the optical industry and his life. The passion and pride he felt as part of Advance Optical was exemplified in how he treated employees and customers as family.

Morley loved people and he loved keeping in touch with them. He was instrumental in creating a reunion committee for his Monroe High School Class of 1956, and they held annual reunions the last 46 years, along with creating a newsletter and other publications. He was a dedicated correspondent and kept in touch with numerous friends and family members around the world. When he was ten years old, he responded to a letter in a children’s magazine looking for a pen pal and received a letter back from ten year-old Rhona from Birmingham, England. The two corresponded over the course of their lifetimes, finally getting the opportunity to meet in person when Morley and Wendy took a trip to England to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1989. An enthusiastic writer, Morley documented his life through daily journaling. “My joys come from the process of writing and realizing new insights by evaluating the events of each day,” he wrote in 2011.

Anyone who knew Morley, knew that he was seldom without his camera. His mother worked for the Eastman Kodak Company during the Depression and he had a camera from an early age. He loved taking pictures of people, his family, friends and even new acquaintances, all of whom would be certain to receive copies of the pictures with a handwritten note in his distinctive, precise print. He filled album upon album, documenting all the major life events that he was privy to, along with many of the day-to-day “joys” as he always referred to them. At weddings, he was always right next to the hired photographer, most times delivering his photos to the wedding party before the professional ones.

Morley also experienced great joy from gardening. He attributed this to his own “victory garden,” a convention started after WWII, which took root in his backyard on Alliance Avenue. Gardening remained a source of great pleasure for both him and Wendy. His love of nature was a strong part of who he was.

Equally important to Morley was his Jewish identity. He loved celebrating the holidays, most of all Passover, and valued these traditions.

Morley’s greatest joy, however, was his family. He and Wendy were blessed with 56 wonderful years of marriage and were overjoyed to celebrate the weddings of both of their children as well as becoming grandparents to their beloved granddaughter, Giada. The family grew internationally with the addition of Giuseppe and Stefanos, and Morley and Wendy were thrilled to have been able to travel to both Italy and Greece to get to know their new family members.

In an essay Morley wrote in 2011, titled “I’m Glad I Lived”, he expressed, “When you treat everyday as a new adventure, you make every day unique and important.”

An abundance of gratitude to Morley’s “Angels”, Sharon Jones, Sharon Smith and Carol Ray, who loved and cared for Morley over the last couple of years and became an instrumental part of the family, as well as to Dr. Louis Papa.

Morley will be remembered above all for his laugh, optimism, kindness, generosity, and deep love for his family and friends. He will be missed profoundly.

An intimate burial was held at Mt. Hope Cemetery on December 2, 2020.

Donations may be made to the Hearing Loss Association of Rochester and the Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

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