(printed with permission)
Hello Mr. Gerstein,
I want to say thank you for posting the information you have on your web site regarding your grandfather, Ira Katz. I knew Ira for many years starting when I was a young teenager (I'm 62 now) and I began visiting his store in Glendale. As he was to so many people, he was an important mentor of mine. I had many memorable discussions with him over many years. As I get older, some remembrance of those people who were important to me in my life has become desirable. I have been seeking a photo of Ira for my collection of family and close friends, and there is nothing on the web that I could find. Until, that is, when I found your link to the youtube video of him being interviewed at Tri-Ess. For me, that link is precious. So I just wanted to thank you for having posted it.
[ After having received this touching letter, I responded with a link to this page, among other things. ]
Thank you so much for providing the link to your grandfather's photos! You have no idea how thrilled I am to see them. Yes, I did miss them on your website. After I emailed you previously, I did reread your website info and saw that I had initially missed that your mother was Susan. I appreciate being reminded of your mother's name as well as your other aunt, Lee. It has been many years for me, so the name reminders were sweet. But those photos of Ira. Wow. This made my year! I have tried on several occasions during the last number of years to find some photos of Ira online, and never came across yours, or anyone else's.
I want to mention that what there is on the web in regard to Ira is a noticeable presence of people who knew and worked with your grandfather, from young students and customers such as myself, to people who worked with him in the film industry. They are all unanimous, every last one of them, and I read quite a few comments, in their praise for what an incredibly fine, super intelligent, helpful, funny, creative, wonderful man he was. And I could not agree more. That's why he stands out so notably in my life.
You might appreciate a story even though it has sad overtones. I was going to see Ira when he was in the building that was alongside the Glendale Freeway (I think). As I turned onto that freeway from Interstate 5, I noticed a thick column of black smoke coming from somewhere in the distance. As I got closer and closer to the off ramp, I could see ever more clearly that the fire was coming from the vicinity of his store. I began to get that queasy feeling when you realize that something is very wrong, and as I passed his location just before I got off the freeway, I could see that it was Tri-Ess that was burning. I parked and walked up to the scene as close as I was allowed, and there was Ira standing there, hands in pockets, just taking it all in. Even though it was a real tragedy, he remained poised and philosophical, "We'll rebuild." I offered him any help I might be able to render, and in his typical stoic self said, "No, he had everything covered." I gained even more respect for him that day after seeing his composure, dignity, and self-confidence in the face of that fire. He taught me a lot in those few moments.
And one other, to me, rather interesting possible coincidence. This has to do with the magazine article in your photos where Ira is showing how to make the bold-relief copper designs. When I was in the 5th grade in Belmont, Mass., that would be about 1961, I made a 3-dimensional picture for a class project just like Ira was showing in the article! It was a napkin holder, and the copper art was on the slightly higher back "wall" of the holder. That project sat in my mother's house in North Hollywood until she recently moved into an assisted living facility two years ago. The project both began and symbolized for me my early desire to make and build things. For all I know, the teacher who gave us the project to construct may have actually gotten the idea from that article!! My how things come full circle.
Even though, as you say, it's too bad he wasn't more widely known, what I do know for certain is that he influenced for the better many, many people with whom he dealt. He really made the world a better place. I will always be grateful that I knew him as I did. He helped make me a better man.
From the bottom of my heart, thanks again,
BTW, I just recently started a Facebook page, if you are interested...
Here's one last story about Ira...
Starting in my early teens, I would use any excuse to visit his store, especially after I began to drive at 17. I needed a beaker, or some test tubes, or anything, just to talk with him for a while. He always seemed to be pleased to see me, too. That was one thing I loved about him - he really made people feel welcome. He knew I was into aquatics, the myriad of small pond animals. I was thinking of starting a small business supplying aquatic lab animals like planaria, little flat worms that were used in many high school biology classes. He probably thought I might have a tough time making a business out of it, because he suggested another - catfish farming! He detailed the ins and outs of that type of fish farming including the details of the fact that catfish exhibit the highest ratio of feed to animal protein. I studied the subject for quite a while, but in the meantime I got a job with a food laboratory in Glendale, and that's where I stayed for some time. Yet, I still have vivid fond memories of him and me discussing catfish farming!
All the best to you, and thanks, Ben.