Who doesn’t enjoy a good love story?
You may already know part of this one…
Scene 1: 1983
Sue Marx was just out of surgery—but was determined to attend a party that night. Husband Hank thought she needed rest. Sue disagreed. “Schoenith parties were a Who’s Who in Detroit,” she says of legendary party givers, Tom and Diane Schoenith, owners of the Roostertail nightclub. At the party, a guest noticed blood on Sue’s white blouse. She introduced Sue to Dr. Yvan Silva, a fellow guest.
“Follow me,” Dr. Silva said. He led Sue and Hank to Receiving, the nearby trauma hospital where he was on staff.
India-born Silva had studied medicine in Bombay before moving to the U.S. for residencies. He was also the head of Wayne State University’s Surgical Residency program and later co-chair of surgery at Harper Hospital in the Detroit Medical Center, a position he’d held for years. At Receiving, Dr. Silva cleaned, numbed and restitched Sue’s wound.
“I’m going back to the party,” he said. “You go home.”
Dr. Silva refused payment. To thank him, the Marxes invited him to dinner. A divorced dad, he spotted the pool in back. Could he bring his daughters swimming? He did so a few times that summer. That was the last the Marxes saw of him for several years.
Scene 2: LATE 1970s
Sue’s mother had died. Father Louis Gothelf, 84, was bereft. He painted and fished, but nothing consoled him. Sue heard some local artists were taking a painting trip to England. She convinced her father to go. Sue says, “A fairytale began.”
On the plane, Lou sat next to artist Reva Shwayder, 83, a widow of several years. “They hit it off big time and talked and ate their way across the Atlantic.”
The tired group of artists arrived at their hotel on the ocean in Brighton Beach. Reva’s room was tiny with no tub. Lou’s was nicer. Reva moved in. By the time they got home, they were in love.
Scene 3: MID 1980s
An award-winning documentary film maker, Sue thought her father’s story would make a great film and “put a positive spin on aging.” She and co-producer, Pam Conn, raised the money and proceeded. Calling their film Young at Heart, Sue got George Burns to give her free music rights to his version of the song. The film “was the ultimate love story between two entertaining octogenarians. It brought hope to all who thought love only happens to the young.”
Two film festivals later, the film was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary Short. Reva and Lou attended the Oscars along with Sue and Hank.
They didn’t just attend. They won an Oscar!
“Oh, what a night!” Sue says as she recalls walking on stage with Pam to receive their statuette that night.
Scene 4: SEPARATE WORLDS
Sue continued with her career. She and Hank enjoyed a happy marriage and raised three daughters. In recent years, Hank suffered heart disease and died.
Meanwhile, Dr. SIlva continued with his medical career. Known as “the singing surgeon,” he had a voice like Tony Bennett’s and also sang at local nightclubs. He remarried. His second wife was stricken with cancer and died.
Scene 5: 009
Yvan was singing at an event at the Townsend Hotel. Sue attended. Several days later, he called. They went out for dinner. “And that was it!” Sue says. “A new love story began.” Marx and Silva (several years younger) became a couple. Their daughters and grandchildren were delighted. All of their kids lived out of town. Sue’s friends became Yvan’s friends. And he became their medical consultant.
A new version of “Young at Heart” is playing out. When people ask Sue if she plans to make a sequel, she answers with an emphatic: “No. It’s the same story with a new cast. American born Sue; India born Yvan. Different and in love. What more is there to say?”
Just that they’re living happily ever after.
What brought this story to mind was my friend Bill Haney’s new book, What They Were Thinking. In his latest memoir, Haney writes about Sue and other influential Michiganders he has known. His 16 subjects also include Dutch Leonard, Ernie Harwell, Jack Kevorkian, JP McCarthy and Denise Ilitch.
Bill opens the book with a quote of his own: There is more than one way to live a life, but the best way is with gusto.
Thanks for the insight, Bill. And the memories.
(Whether you’re young at heart or body, please share your Godsign stories with me.)