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Published: Monday, 5/21/2012

Celebrating 98 years of storytelling

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Rothman Rothman
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It’s always nice to write about a legend when he’s still a living legend.

So today’s effort is intramural, although those of you of a certain age, and that double-digit age probably starts with at least a 5, will likely recognize the name.

There was a birthday party Friday at Kingston Residence in Sylvania. It’s not exactly Chuck E. Cheese’s. There was a slide show and accordion music. It’s a more mature crowd at Kingston.

Seymour Rothman turned 98, and his son and daughter hosted a luncheon. One of the guests was his great-granddaughter, who also was celebrating a birthday, her first. I could say something profound about that, but we’ll settle for it just being neat.

It has been said that when you reach Seymour’s age you have no enemies. They’re all dead.

But, boy, does he ever have friends. About 40 people showed up to fete Rothman, the oldest known living ex-sports writer at The Blade. Well, news writer, features writer, and columnist too.

Seymour did it all during a Blade career that stretched from the mid-1930s until his retirement in 1991. He covered Jack Mollenkopf at Waite and Chuck Chuckovits at UT. He wrote about fight promoters and bookies. He knew mobsters and cops. He remembers burlesque halls and street cars. He profiled the rich and famous but had more fun telling stories about men and women you’d otherwise never know.

There was a lot of fame on hand Friday, and there were some folks you might otherwise never know.

The great Toledo cartoonist, Pete Hoffman, whose work often appeared in The Blade, was there. He’s 93 and has known Seymour for more than 70 years. Jim Richard, the runner-up as oldest known living ex-Blade sports writer, who later became one of the biggest PR guys in town, was there. He’ll soon be 90. Lance Thompson, the professor emeritus of chemistry and a retired administrator at UT, now 87, was there. So was the old coach, Frank X. Lauterbur, 86.

Once upon a time, the Lauterburs, the Thompsons, the Richards, and the Rothmans all lived in the same block in Old Orchard. Lauterbur might never have bought the house if he’d known two sports writers were so close.

As the story goes, Mary Lauterbur’s dryer conked out one day during the early years, before Lauterbur’s UT football teams started ripping off MAC championships, and she went to the Rothmans’ to use theirs. Richard saw her walking across the street with basket and clothes in hand and yelled, “Mary, just because Frank has lost a few games, you don’t have to start taking in laundry.” Seymour thought that was pretty funny and put it in his column the next day. FXL didn’t quite appreciate the humor at the time.

Barbara and Suzie Rubinstein were there Friday, too, providing the kind of story that Rothman loved to write. Their grandmother and Seymour’s mother were sisters. Some of the family did not survive the Holocaust. Four who did — Barbara and Suzie’s mother, two aunts and an uncle — immigrated to the U.S. thanks to Seymour’s sponsorship. Yes, there were a couple tears in the telling.

Asked if he had dreamed of living to such a ripe old age, Seymour said: “Let me put it this way. I never thought I wouldn’t.”

Rothman graduated from UT 75 years ago, but had to cancel his reservation to attend a recent alumni event. He dropped a note to UT alumni director Dan Saevig that said: “I’m sorry I can’t be with you. At my age I’m lucky I can even be with me.”

A bunch of folks felt lucky to be with him to celebrate No. 98.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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