Day Two Hundred and Twenty-Nine: I dedicate this blog to my friend, Barbara Gurtov, I will miss you so much! April 3rd and 8th, 2022

Barbara Gurtov, myself and our friend, Lillian Heckler at the Bryant Park Grill on Lillian’s 90th birthday, June 5th, 2008.

Myself with Lillian Heckler and Barbara Gurtov in Bryant Park June 5th, 2008

I just said goodbye to a dear friend who have known since 1995 when I started working at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue. Barbara had worked in adjoining departments when I ran the Boy’s Action Department and then I got to really know her when I ran the Pre-School Department when I returned to the store in the Summer of 1996 to work the Christmas holiday season.

I had gotten to know her and our friend, the late Lillian Heckler (See Day One Hundred and Thirty: I dedicate this blog to my friends, Lillian Heckler and Helen Chao):

when I became Pre-School Manager on the second floor of the old FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue store in the General Motors building. When I took the job, the store manager had told me that the department had problems with managers in the past and that it was tough to manage as it had many old-time employees, and they were hard to get along with in the area.

Barbara Gurtov, myself and Lillian Heckler at Lillian’s 90th Birthday at the Bryant Park Grill in Bryant Park June 5th, 2008.

I don’t know what it was, maybe my personality or my respect for women who were talented and smart and were no-nonsense about work, but these employees knew their stuff and taught me a lot and we got along wonderfully. The whole department gelled so well and not only did I give them a department Christmas present, but I remember that I took the department as well as my bosses out to dinner at the holidays. I hated to leave in the end, but I needed to finish my studies and back to school I went after the holidays.

Still, we kept in touch every time I visited the store when I went into Manhattan, and they became more than ex-employees. They both became good friends who stayed friends with for over 25 years.

Barbara, Lillian and I at Christmas dinner 2007

The last time I had seen Barbara was on a trip I made to Florida in 2019 to visit some friends who were experiencing a lot in their lives and a younger brother who was going through a divorce. I figured over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I would visit everyone.

Barbara and I and her caregiver, Sharon had a wonderful two days exploring the complex she lived in, meeting her friends, having a wonderful breakfast at IHOP and then a delicious buffet Chinese lunch at a local restaurant. I remember commenting to Barbara that I was amazed how good the food was for a buffet.

It was a quick overnight trip but seemed to do wonders for her. Later a friend of hers commented how much she appreciated it and how much it meant to her. I had planned on returning the next year, but COVID disrupted those plans for two years.

By 2022, her illness really started to affect her. I was able to talk to her once more before she passed but her caregiver said to me that she always appreciated my calls and cards. That meant a lot to me.

I went to say my final goodbye to her today and mentioned to her family who were there how much she meant to me. Barbara was unique in her own way, but I was lucky to be her friend and was able to pay my respects to her.

Barbara, Lillian and me at Christmas Dinner 2007

So, I dedicate this blog to a very special friend of over 25 years, Barbara Gurtov. I will miss you so much. To a true Manhattanite!


5 thoughts on “Day Two Hundred and Twenty-Nine: I dedicate this blog to my friend, Barbara Gurtov, I will miss you so much! April 3rd and 8th, 2022

  1. So saddened to find out today of Barbara’s passing. Barbara and I met at the old Bowlmor Lanes on University Place where we were both members of MCAANY League, a very large NYC-based LGBT+ bowling league, part of IGBO. In fact, we competed together and supported each other in the 1994 Gay Games in NYC in bowling. She won Gold in her respective Women’s division as did I in the Mens, and were both lucky enough to win Gold together as doubles partners, unusual mixed-sex doubles for the time. She was kind enough to get me a VHS recording of our interview during that competition. She was a unique, wonderful and caring person, and devoted friend who will certainly be missed by me and all who knew her. May her memory be for a blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Stewart,

      I had been friends with Barbara since she worked with me at FAO Schwarz back in 1995 and she told me about her wins and her time in the Gay Games. I had kept in touch with her all these years and remained friends with her last seeing her before the pandemic during Thanksgiving of 2019. She was a unique lady until the end and always had everyone’s support. I will miss her a lot too.

      She is always in my heart and in my ear yelling at me (HaHa).

      Thank you for your kind words.


      Justin Watrel, Blogger

      Liked by 1 person

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