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July 2005

Jerry Flaschner

by Joseph H. RADDER

Author's Note: Ever since I began writing biographical feature articles for Living Prime Time eight years ago, people have asked me "Why don't you do a story about Jerry Flaschner?"

Each time I've suggested it, he has passed it off. His repeated refusals have always been accompanied with his desire to highlight "more worthy subjects."

Finally, I put together a group of several others who shared my passion - and whom Jerry also respected, and we convinced him that … since this is Living Prime Time's 10th Anniversary issue ... this would be the perfect time and place.

Reluctantly, Jerry agreed…and here's our story about the Storyteller.

You, who know Jerry Flaschner, will agree that few people have a more positive outlook on life than he does. Apparently this natural optimism goes back to his youth.

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3 months old in Ossipee, NH - 1929.
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4 years old. 8 years old - swimming in Ossipee.

"My grandfather, Samuel, was an outstanding role model. He passed away at 92 - when I was 24, and so I had the privilege of sharing many wonderful years with him." Jerry recalls.

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Grandfather - Samuel.

"Because there were few diversions, our frequent quality times together included lots of conversation, good thinking and humor. Although he was a quiet person, he enjoyed talking about what we were doing … like playing rummy … going to Red Sox games (where he was a strategic genius) … or reviewing stories in the Sunday New York Times (which he read completely each week).

“He would walk 2 miles every day to work in the family clothing manufacturing business - where he would assemble men’s suits until he was 88 years young.

“He then had a leg amputated at the knee and designed his own artificial replacement limb so he could remain physically, socially and mentally active - without problems.

“His son, my father, carried on the same positive attitude - and reinforced in me the importance of facing life's daily challenges as no problems - just unique opportunities.”

"No problem" has become a Flaschner family slogan. In fact, Jerry's car license plate reads

Jerry Flaschner was born in May 1929 in Boston. He inherited the name, Jerry, from his father. After Harvard Dental School, Navy Dental Corps. in World War I, general dentistry and Army Dental Corps in World War II, his father, a successful Boston dentist, pioneered periodontia in the 1950s. Jerry remembers him as "an extremely communicative person. He loved people; talking to people, writing to people, working with people and doing things for people. When he was overseas, during World War II, we received V-mail letters from him almost every day."

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Father - Jerry.

Jerry's mother, Rae Neistadt Flaschner, was, in his words, "a very bright woman. She was executive secretary to the president of the library at Harvard University. She was a stickler for language and spelling. So, through the years, I was exposed to literary disciplines. She also loved music. As a family we enjoyed The Boston Symphony Orchestra every other Saturday night. Several members of the orchestra were personal family friends." And as a special treat for his piano and trumpet lessons, Jerry particularly remembers one time, seated in a box in Symphony Hall, just above the stage, and Rachmaninoff was playing the piano. "So I watched Rachmaninoff's fingers tickle the keys. It was just awesome."

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Mother - Rae.

Jerry had one brother, Franklin, eight years older than he, who died at the early age of 54. However, Franklin built a brilliant law career during his short life. He went to Boston Latin School, Yale University, had a stint in the Navy toward the end of World War II and then attended Yale Law School. After practicing law in Boston, he was appointed a judge and then became Chief Justice of the District Courts of Massachusetts. Franklin Flaschner was so highly respected that, after his death, the Flaschner Judicial Institute was created to provide special education for all judges in Massachusetts. It is heralded today as the only one like it in the country - which makes the Flaschner Family very proud.

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Brother - Franklin.

In the early 1920s, Jerry's Dad was a founder and national president of the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity. One of his close friends in the fraternity was Ben Sidenberg - also a national president.

"When I moved to Buffalo, my Dad said, 'Remember Ben Sidenberg? Well, he has a brother who lives in Niagara Falls.'" Jerry contacted Ben's brother, Dr. Irwin Sidenberg, and was invited to dinner on Father's Day in 1954. Two weeks later, on July 4th, Jerry met his daughter Joy, who was working in New York City and was home for the holiday. On Labor Day, eight weeks later, they were engaged and sixteen weeks later they were married on Christmas Day. The rest is history. And, since they believe that their marriage was conceived before they were born by Ben Sidenberg and Jerry Flaschner Sr., they call it "The sweet Ben and Jerry story."

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Ben Sidenberg and Jerry Flaschner, Sr.
“The Sweet Ben and Jerry Story”
at Jerry and Joy’s wedding.
Dr. and Mrs. Irwin Sidenberg - who first met Jerry on Father’s Day 1954 and then introduced him to their
daughter, Joy, two weeks later on the 4th of July.
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Jerry and Joy - 1954.

"After 50 years of wedded bliss, Joy and I can point with pride to our greatest success...three fine sons: Steve, Mark and Jon; three sensational daughters-in-law; Kristina, Chris and Sandy; and four magnificent grandchildren; Erika, Katie, Alyssa and Robert" Jerry beams.

Steve, 48, is a doctor in Western New York. Mark, 46, owns Alcohol Controls in Atlanta and Jon, 42, is with the PGA Tour in Ponte Vedre Beach, Florida.

"And of course - the most valuable relationship of my life," Jerry gleams, "is the Joy of my life … who has been my inspiration, my leader and my love - and responsible for our many exciting adventures."

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Top row: Jon, Sandy, Chris, Mark, Kristina, Steve.
Middle: Alyssa.
Bottom row: Katie, Joy, Robert, Jerry, Erika.

A question about Jerry's childhood prompted the story of Ossipee, New Hampshire, where the Flaschner family has spent summers for over 70 years.

Jerry's father had a close friend during World War I, Andy Friedman, who had a dream to establish a boys' camp in New Hampshire. And so, in 1927, the two set out on a trip to look for a location. In a rowboat they discovered a serene spot with a beautiful sand beach on Broad Bay in Lake Ossipee, …and they named it Camp Robin Hood - carrying on the delightful English tradition.

Today, Jerry remembers "Many of the important things in my life came from Lake Ossipee, and swimming was one of them. I started swimming competitively at the age of four." Jerry's dream of joining Yale's famous swimming dynasty became a reality in 1947. "Swimming and managing for five-time U.S. Olympic swim coaches, Bob Kiphuth and Phil Moriarty, taught excellent disciplines, intense fitness and the determination to be a winner".

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Yale’s Freshman Championship Team - 1948.

At his mother's urging (his father was overseas in World War II), Jerry enrolled at Milton Academy just outside of Boston - probably one of the finest private schools in the country. "Of 50 students in a class, 20 traditionaly went on to Harvard - and in our 1947 class, 5 of us went on to Yale." Milton's great education was a needed and very timely opportunity to prepare Jerry for a successful college and adult career.

Was there a military experience as well? "Yes. In 1948, when I was a freshman, you had to be affiliated with a branch of the service or you would be drafted. I was fortunate to be accepted into the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class. We signed up as privates - remained in college and went on active duty during summers - for basic combat training. Then, upon graduation, we would receive a commission and be in the Ready Reserves..

"That was fine, but then came 1950 and the Korean War, so we pretty well knew that the day we graduated would be the day we'd go on active duty. That's exactly what happened in June of 1951. After Basic School for combat readiness I was assigned to the 2nd Division and spent time overseas with NATO and the Sixth Fleet. I was the ship's Commanding Officer of Marines and we were on constant amphibious maneuvers in Europe, in Africa and in the Middle East."

As it turned out, while in the Marines, Jerry was also able to briefly get back to competitive swimming. The Marines had heard about his background and said "Flaschner, you know of good swimmers. Find those in the Marine Corps and we'll transfer them to Cherry Point for outdoor summer competition ... and go after the other branches of service." In June 1953, as a First Lieutenant, Jerry became head coach and fine-tuned a championship U.S. Marine Corps swimming team - winning intensely competitive Armed Forces and AAU titles.

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Bringing home the Armed Services Championship and trophies to Brig. General Manley (top left) and Maj. General Jerome (top right) - 1953. Receiving congratulations for the AAU’s 1st place 300 meter medley relay team from Assistant Commandant - U.S. Marine Corps.- Lt. General O.P. Smith - 1953.

Jerry's Marine Corps duty also extended to the 2nd Marine Air Wing as a fighter squadron maintenance officer. He completed his military career in 1964 as a Captain in the Reserves.

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Completing a cockpit maintenance checkout - 1954.

In 1954 Jerry Flaschner began his exciting business career. “I started with a sales position at Colad that brought me to Buffalo. Colad was then a fledgling company that made a unique product, custom designed laminated school book covers." Jerry recalls.

As the sixth employee, Jerry would go out selling during the day and come back to the plant in the evening to handle the laminating production - often till 4 o'clock in the morning.

After three years, the owners decided to move Jerry to Chicago to open the Midwest market. Jerry and Joy agreed to go with the intention of spending two years there. As it would turn out, they were there for thirteen years.

“Our Chicago experience was very meaningful.” Jerry recounted. “As young marrieds, Joy and I became very active in the community, developed many long-lasting friendships and were able to devote quality time to raising our family.”

While in Chicago, Jerry ran across a product that intrigued him. He then created and developed an entirely new marketing approach - and an extensive line of new industrial products - which became the key to Colad's business success. It's no wonder that Jerry Flaschner was eventually called back from Chicago to be president of the company. In 1972 Colad was sold, and Jerry opted out.

"I then took the position as president of Tra-vel, Inc., a company owned by the Rothchilds of France. We operated a national network of travel information centers on U.S. Interstate highways."

But Jerry always wanted his own business. So, in 1974, when the opportunity to purchase three related Buffalo foodservice companies - Meyer Equipment, Store Fixture Sales and Niagara China, became available, he accepted the challenge. Blending union and non-union organizations, he turned the MSN business around.

Then he heard about a unique product for the foodservice industry. It was a control program to measure and account for the pouring of alcohol beverages - adding great new profits to the bottom line. "My new company, Beverage Control Systems, became the largest national dealer. Taking over, my son Mark in Atlanta, has now successfully expanded his company, Alcohol Controls, throughout the world.”

Over the years, Jerry's extracurricular fun has centered around travel, photography, golf, tennis, skiing and scuba diving - all shared with the rest of the family.    

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Joy and Jerry at a recent awards dinner. A fun scuba dive.
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FUN-LOVING FLASCHNERS ... Jon, Steve and Mark after a great scuba dive. ... Joy and Jerry square dancing at Jon & Sandy’s rehearsal dinner - 1990

It was time to retire, but Jerry Flaschner wasn't the retiring type. He had the idea to create a magazine featuring positive, colorful and upbeat stories, primarily about people. And so, Living Prime Time was born 10 years ago in July, 1995.

Jerry is a storyteller. It's impossible to be with him for more than five minutes without hearing a good story - always positive, always upbeat, always interesting and usually about some colorful person he knows. This natural talent translates to the magazine and, now, to Living Prime Time's multimedia network which includes it's own Radio and Television shows and its unique Website.
"What Living Prime Time is," a prominent publisher friend says, "is really an extension of Jerry Flaschner." And the kind of stories you'll read in Living Prime Time rarely appear in other media. Indeed it is a unique publication. Together with the Radio shows, the Television broadcasts and the Website, it reaches more than 50,000 people per month.

The Living Prime Time package is only part of Jerry's contribution to the quality of western New York life. He is also involved with many organizations and worthy causes. "They provide me the opportunity to give back to the community which has been so good to me, to my family and to my business endeavors," he states proudly.

Another thing that's unique about Living Prime Time, in Jerry's words, "It's not controversial - it's just a collection of nice stories and nice pictures about nice people, nice organizations and nice events."

No wonder. You see, the founder and publisher of Living Prime Time is one nice guy who believes - The best is yet to come.

Joseph H. Radder is a freelance writer.

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