In Memoriam: Andrew Hatch

Image: Andrew Hatch poses for a photograph with his daughter Delane Sims, left, and granddaughter SherriAnn Cole, at his Oakland, Calif. home, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

Imagine a life that crosses three centuries: born in 1898 and living into the 21st century. That was Mr. Andrew Hatch, who died this past Monday in Oakland, CA at age 117. He was believed to be the oldest man alive at the time.

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Hatch one day, when I visited his daughter’s home to work on a grant proposal. Delane Sims was multitasking the whole time I was there, brainstorming with me, checking in on her dad, and coordinating with the people who helped with his care.

His bed was set up in the sunny living room, a center of quiet attention in the house. I watched as Delane and her husband Jerry check in with him: “Daddy, you comfortable?” “Oh yeah.” His voice was musical, communicating as much with tone as with words.

There’s a concept in Judaism, shalom bayit, which translates to “peace of the home.” I could feel the shalom bayit in the Sims residence, a gentle loving quality to every interaction. It was clear, too, that it came from everyone there: from Delane, and Jerry, and from Mr. Hatch himself. He had devoted himself to the daughter he had at age 60, and the love shining back and forth between the two of them was beautiful.

That love cascades from their home to the world outside as well. Jerry Sims is a retired engineer, who now drives a school bus for elementary school kids. His face glowed when he talked to me about it. I’ve written before about Delane’s Natural Nail Care, where Delane turns her cosmetology training and a B.A. from Cal Berkeley to running a nail business where health and ethical working conditions are the focus. It’s a place of healing and light (click on the links to learn more.)

All this love emanates from a man who was born in Louisiana in 1898, and from his heirs. Shalom bayit, indeed!


Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, shekacha lo beolamo!

Blessed are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time and Space, that such as these are in your world!


(Thanks to for the Hebrew text as well as the transliteration of this blessing.)

How do Jews Celebrate Valentine’s Day?


Hey, it’s not our holiday.  It’s SAINT Valentine’s Day, and the way it became the Hallmark-and-florist fest it is today is a long and involved story.

That said, I am all in favor of a day that reminds us to tell our loved ones “I love you.”  Truth is, we should be doing that every day.

But  I see the pain Feb 14 gives some of my single friends, and the widows, and those whose marriages are suffering.  I wonder about the kindness of a day devoted to expressions of romantic love, a day that winds up excluding all but the already happy.

I celebrated the day by telling my honey I love her (like I do every day) and sending a donation to Shalom Bayit, an organization working against domestic violence in my home town. I’m going to send one to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the great organizations that are part of the fight for marriage equality.

Down with pain, up with love! I think that’s an idea we can all support.