Who knows if volunteering is the secret to a long-lasting partnership, but for one Connecticut couple, serving veterans has certainly served their 45-year-long marriage well.
Joanne and Jerry Blum met in 1967, after Jerry returned from serving in Vietnam. He was working at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut, as a psychiatric aid, and Joanne was in nursing school, assigned to the same ward as Jerry during her three-month rotation. When she moved back to Massachusetts, Jerry’s friend convinced him to call her. And as they say, the rest is history.
They got married in 1968 and ever since, they have been working with veterans. Their whole family became involved with the West Hartford Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Joanne marched with the drill team,” Jerry told M.A.C. Lynch of the Hartford Courant. “I was in the color guard. Our daughters were in the fife and drum corps.” Professionally, Joanne worked as a nurse for thirty years at the veterans’ hospital in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.
In more recent years, the Blums started volunteering with the Jewish War Veterans. “The Jewish War Veterans is the oldest active veterans service organization in America,” said Jerry. “Their mission is to dispel the idea that Jews don’t serve in the military, and to take care of veterans.” Through Jewish War Veterans, the Blums help homeless veterans and those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They also assist veterans in hospitals through their organization’s Grant-A-Wish program — providing the vets with such comforts as new shoes and restaurant meals.
“Any time we do anything for the veterans, it’s the best mitzvah, something that you do that’s more than a good deed. You do it with no possible return,” Jerry said, but “for the feeling inside that this is what we exist for.”