Tag Archives: Second Chances

Filmmaker Sue Marx realizes ‘Young at Heart’ (The Sequel)

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.


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.)

From Britain to Sarasota, Mothers and Babies Need Each Other

A few months back, this irresistible photo showed up on the internet.  Hours after his birth on a farm in Britain, this foal was abandoned by his mother, perhaps because she had no milk. The foal ran from mare to mare, trying to suckle and being turned away.  The farmer brought him, scratched and dehydrated, to Devon-based Mare and Foal Sanctuary. There they named him Breeze, and administered medical care. The ordeal had traumatized the foal, and he couldn’t sleep.  A staff member got the bright idea to put Buttons, a giant Teddy Bear, into Breeze’s stall.  As you can see, Buttons did the trick.  Breeze found a replacement for his mother.

The story about the bond between mother and baby reminded of something I saw last winter.  I visited the Big Cat Habitat near our home in Sarasota, FL.  Big Cat is a sanctuary run by the Rosaire family, renowned animal trainers and rescuers of unwanted animals, mostly cats, for over 35 years.  I looked into an enclosure at a Capuchin monkey with pendulous breasts.  One of the Rosaires, who was standing nearby, told me the monkey’s story.

A little girl visited the sanctuary one day, holding a small stuffed teddy bear. Kylie, the monkey, grabbed the toy and took it to her house.  When the staff tried to remove it, Kylie began shrieking and flailing.  She grew so agitated that the visitor agreed to surrender her teddy bear. Kylie was so devoted to her “baby” that she grew breasts. Concerned, the staff called the vet. They could administer painful hormone injections, the vet said. Or they could leave the wanna-be-mama alone. They left her alone. She guarded her baby with devotion for about two months until it turned to shreds. By then, Kylie was ready to let her baby go. The tattered teddy was removed with no further drama.

Speaking of Big Cat, we have some celebrities in the neighborhood. Two Big Cat occupants are current movie stars. Chance, a chimpanzee, and Handsome, a lion, are featured in the new Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Wolf of Wall Street. They play exotic pets brought into the office of an out-of-control stockbroker. Chance learned to roller skate for the part. Chance and DiCaprio “really liked each other and worked well together,” says Big Cat owner Kay Rosaire.

Kay calls her animals “professionals.” Their earnings help support the nonprofit sanctuary, which also houses many non-working animals.

(Please send me your Godsigns stories, whatever kind of monkey business they involve.)

Stray Border Collie Mix Eases a Veteran’s PTSD

Todd served as a paratrooper in the army for four years. In 1994, while stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he survived a deadly plane crash at nearby Pope Air Force Base. Twenty-four members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were killed in the worst peacetime loss of life suffered by the division since the end of WW2. Several were Todd’s good friends.

This brave warrior, trained to parachute into an operation as part of an airborne force, was traumatized by the accident. Todd suffered PTSD for nearly two decades. Psychotherapy wasn’t working. He and wife Stephanie discussed getting a therapy dog.  Too many objections arose.  They were busy. Their three cats wouldn’t get along with a dog.  A dog would prevent their weekend travel.  “We came up with every excuse in the book,” Stephanie says.

In September of 2012, Stephanie was headed to work.  She’s a fundraiser for Moffitt Cancer Center, a cancer hospital in Tampa, FL. She noticed a black dog on the side of the road near their neighborhood. She happened to be on the phone with Todd and commented on it. That evening, driving to pick up teenage daughter Rowan from band practice, Todd noticed the same dog still sitting on the side of the road. A few hours later, a thunder storm rolled in. Todd kept thinking about that dog.

“We love animals and hate to see them homeless, lonely and in pain,” Stephanie says. “But Todd had never been so focused on a stray. He was restless and worried and drove off in search of the dog. He spotted her as she ducked into some bushes. Five seconds later he’d have missed her. The poor dog was so weak she couldn’t jump into the car. Todd had to lift her.”

Todd brought the stray, a border collie mix, home. He, Stephanie and Rowan bathed her. They borrowed dog food from their neighbor and fed her. They created a bed for her on the patio out of old car wash towels. She was spayed but had no identification. They resolved to find her owner or find her a new home. The local animal shelter website knew of no dog matching her description.

Within a week of the stray dog’s arrival, Todd’s anxiety eased. This new member of the household comforted Todd. He felt more relaxed. They named her Shelby, a nod to Todd’s love for the Mustang Shelby GT Cobra. (He has owned a Mustang but not a Mustang Shelby.) Shelby instantly took to her new name. And her new owner. Whether Todd goes to the mailbox or has been gone for hours, she races to him and does her “Shelby dance.” Her feet tap rapidly; her rear end wags along with her tail. She kisses Todd and follows him from room to room. Although she weighs 50 lbs., she jumps into his lap when he reclines.

Stephanie says, “This loving, beautiful animal calmed my husband and brought him a peace he hadn’t felt for years. We knew our search for her family was over. We had found a new home for Shelby. She was meant to be Todd’s companion. He picked her up from the side of the road and gave her a second chance. She returned the favor and gave him a second chance.”

 (We love animal stories. People stories, too! Please share your Godsign stories with me.)

In Second Marriage, Love Blossoms Again


Anne nursed husband Bob through five tough years with cancer.  Before he died, he said, “You will meet someone with even more in common.  My best legacy will be for you to enjoy a happy second marriage.”

Fourteen months after Bob died, his prophecy had not come true.  Then, at a neighborhood holiday party in Santa Barbara, CA, Anne ran into a local builder.  He was renovating the elegant nearby San Ysidro Ranch and offered her a free night in the hotel. She decided to spend Christmas Eve there.

A week later at a different party, Anne spotted Michael across the room.  A casual acquaintance and local philanthropist, Michael was several years older.  Still Anne says, “I felt an invisible hand on my shoulder pushing me toward him.”  This old-fashioned, 60-something widow found herself asking Michael what he was doing Christmas Eve.  “Not much,” he said.  She invited him to dinner.

She reported the invitation to me, her big sister.  I shrieked, “You invited him to a hotel? What will he think?”

“I don’t know how I had the nerve to ask Mike out, especially to a hotel,” Anne says.  “I had never done anything like that before.  I think I was propelled by Bobby.”

Michael arrived at Anne’s cottage bearing a bottle of champagne and a large bouquet of roses.  They dined and talked in front of a glowing fire and danced to the one CD in the cottage.   At 11pm, Michael “gave me a lovely kiss and was out the door, the perfect gentleman.”

The next morning, Anne gathered up the roses.  In the firelight, they had looked pink.  In daylight, she realized they were apricot.  Apricot was the color of the roses she carried in her wedding to Bob over 32 years ago.  Bob had continued to present them every year for their anniversary.  Just before he died, he’d paid the florist in advance to deliver apricot roses to Anne once a month for the next year.  As if the flowers weren’t enough of a Godsign, Anne realized something else.  The CD to which she’d danced with Michael was by Tony Bennett—Anne and Bob’s favorite singer.

Later that morning, Anne returned home.  Michael had dropped off a bag of seedless tangerines.  The note read, “These are from my tree.  They are sweet but not as sweet as you.”  Seedless tangerines were Bob’s favorite fruit.  And the bag Michael put them in was a Hallmark-type bag with a photo of Venice, Italy.  Venice was Bob’s favorite city and the last big trip Anne and Bob took together.

Putting her apricot roses into a vase, Anne walked upstairs and placed her hand on an antique silver box holding some of Bob’s ashes. She asked: Is this the man you want for me?  She says she felt “a warm current run up and down my spine.”

Anne and Mike have been married for seven years.  Friends often call their marriage a match made in heaven. 

Anne says, “I couldn’t agree more.”