75 Years of San Diego Hebrew Homes – also known as Seacrest Village Retirement Communities The Diamond Anniversary Gala Shines a Light on Lee & Frank GoldbergApril 25, 2018
In 1944, the first San Diego Hebrew Home opened in a small house on 4th Avenue—housing a total of 10 seniors. Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Goldie Winicki, the parents of Lee Goldberg, were original contributors of the Hebrew Home. Lee, along with her husband, Frank, showed me papers with her parents’ names on them when she and her husband invited me to their Rancho Santa Fe home for an interview.
“My parents were contributors, and I found all these old papers,” Lee said, showing me a pamphlet with hand written names on it. “And here my parents are listed—Mr. and Mrs. Frank Winicki—and they made their donation in honor of his father, so I kept it all these years, and the original picture of 4th Avenue is on the cover of that pamphlet—the list is from 1944.”
Lee and Frank, who were instrumental in the development of Seacrest becoming what it is today, have been happily (and from what I’ve observed, wittily) married for 65 years. Frank moved to San Diego from Madison, Wisconsin, in 1949, and they met at her sister’s 16th birthday party. From the very beginning, the couple was deeply involved with the San Diego Hebrew Homes.
“It’s something that’s very close to our hearts,” Lee told me as we sat in her beautifully decorated living room, “and we have been involved with it for many years.”
We first spoke about the influence her parents had on her own philanthropy. “They were very charitable people and cared very much about the Jewish people, and they knew that there was a need for this and that’s why they got involved,” she said. “And we got involved, I guess, by osmosis, I don’t know,” she laughed.
“And we got a good price!” the ever joke-cracking Frank quipped about the land purchased for the second home on 54th Street.
Once San Diego Hebrew Homes outgrew their 10-bed location on 4th Avenue, they expanded in 1955 to what would become their first residential and long-term care facility. It was located on 54th Street near the original Jewish Community Center.
Frank said from the very beginning the home was for everyone. “It wasn’t any organization or temple,” he explained. “It’s wasn’t Orthodox, it wasn’t Conservative it wasn’t Reform.” He stressed that it was for everyone.
The home on 54th grew to multiple wings, until the space no longer met their needs. “We outgrew that in nothing flat,” Frank told me.
Thus began the planning for a new location, which would become Seacrest Village in Encinitas. In 1985, they purchased 10 acres of land.
“I remember actually the first drawings that they had,” Anne Nagorner, one of the Goldberg’s daughters, reminisced about the blueprint stage. “My father was very instrumental in creating Seacrest. I remember the first meetings. A small group of people, met in our home in the family room with drawings of the conception of what it was going to look like. Actually, we would once in a while go with my father to see the construction, the development of it, and that started with one building to another to another to another to where it is today.”
“We had many meetings at the house. I’m surprised the girls even remembered,” Lee said when I told her what Anne had mentioned. “There were many meetings there, you know, getting organized, getting campaigns ready to raise money, and the blueprints were to see how much it was going to cost to build.”
“It’s amazing that it turned out the way it did, and the need is even greater than we anticipated,” she said. “What makes Seacrest, I think, so unique is that you can live there in phases as you need it, where the seasoned citizen can start with independent living and have all of their needs met even as they change. You don’t have to move out at any time, it’s amazing.”
Frank said one of the first problems was trying to get the financing for Seacrest. It cost $14 million in the ‘80s, and they were able to build it without a loan. How did he manage that I asked? “Worked like hell,” he answered dryly. “First you had to get a lot… You had to get approved, it didn’t just work easily. It evolved, we had a difficult time getting permission from Encinitas to build it.”
“Nothing’s easy. That’s building,” Lee added.
“They are and have been wonderful role models for us as far as having great parents, how to give back to the community, how to be upstanding people,” Suzi Feldman, the Goldbergs’ other daughter told me during our phone interview.
“They also instilled upon us how important it is to support the things that are important, like Seacrest and the Hebrew Home back in the day. And how important it is not only to support it but to be active in any capacity that we can, which also includes showing up and doing our best because it’s important not only for the community and for the residents… but to take care of those who came before us,” she said.
Frank Goldberg worked in the furniture business and real estate while Lee, who was at home with their three children, also helped with the furniture business. Their daughters say they were always involved with the Hebrew Homes when they were growing up.
“Our mom, always when we had extra things would say, ‘Oh let’s take this to the home. It will make it nicer for the residents there.’ Be it flowers or anything to perk it up, it was always, ‘Oh, we can take this to the home, let’s send it over there, they’ll enjoy that,’” Suzi said.
Anne recalls visiting the home as a kid. “I remember going to the JCC summer day camp, and at that point in time the JCC was in front of where the Hebrew Home was, so we would always go back as kids to say hello to all the seniors that were there,” she said.
Her father was on various Seacrest boards for several decades, and Anne remembers becoming more involved after spending time with her grandmother when she moved to Seacrest. “I remember going there with my kids, visiting her and bringing her here,” she said. “We had a puppy at the time, and we would go and say hello to all of the residents and sometime after that I got more involved and joined the board.”
She remembered when her grandmother wasn’t going to be able to attend her son Evan’s bar mitzvah, so the morning of his Bar Mitzvah they did part of the service at Seacrest.
“She wasn’t going to be able to go, and so what we did was on the morning of his Bar Mitzvah, my father and late husband, Joel, went up for an Aliyah, and Evan read from the Torah just because we wanted her to be a part of it.”
“I spent a good deal of time there,” Frank said. “My mother was there and my cousin was there… It is a wonderful place.”
His mother moved to Seacrest soon after it opened in the late 80s, and to welcome her they had her apartment decorated before she arrived. “Anne drove her around all day while we were fixing up the apartment for her, so it was all ready when she got there,” Lee said. “It was her place.”
While at Seacrest, Frank would visit her nearly every day. She lived the rest of her life out happily there, as well a cousin they brought to San Diego from Florida.
“Every day between 5:00 and 5:30, Mr. Goldberg would pull up,” Robin Israel, Chief Foundation Officer of the Seacrest Foundation, said. “He would pull up, walk right to his mother’s apartment to visit, and always spoke with the staff before he left. That’s how I remember it. Every day.”
“She was very happy there for the rest of her life,” Lee said.
While working to raise the money for Seacrest, they received a substantial donation from a man who asked in return that they promise the food would be kosher. “So we brought that back to the board and the conclusion was it should be kosher because we didn’t want to leave out one person. Everybody can eat kosher, but certain people can’t eat anything if it’s not kosher,” Frank said.
“When we finally got it built and opened,” he began, “this little lady comes up to me and says, ‘You’re the president?’ Which I was at that time, and I said, ‘Yep’ and she says, ‘The food is terrible here,’ and with that her son runs up.”
“Oh, I remember that, he was a prominent doctor here,” Lee said as we laughed, hanging on for the punch line.
“And he runs up and says ‘Ma! What are you doing?’” Frank continued. “’You’ve already gained 10 pounds since you’ve been here!’”
“He was so embarrassed, but it didn’t really bother me,” Frank said, throwing his hands in the air and shrugging with a bit of a gleam in his eye.
In 1996, Seacrest purchased another site in Poway. Many other buildings have opened on the Encinitas campus in the past several years as well. And recently, they created Seacrest at Home, a home care agency, which helps seniors remain in their own homes for as long as possible.
“A seasoned citizen can go through all the phases of living: independent, assisted, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory care,” Lee explained. “The whole thing has just blossomed.”
And just as it has for 75 years, the Goldbergs believe Seacrest will continue to evolve into its centennial year and beyond.
“The next generation will carry on,” Lee said without a doubt. “This will be something that’s ongoing. This isn’t something that’s built and you stop. It keeps going … We are thrilled with the way it has evolved. It’s only going to get bigger and better I’m sure of it, because the need is there.”
And the San Diego Jewish community—including their three children: Suzi, Anne and Eddie—will be there when they’re honored on June 2 at the Diamond Anniversary Gala.
“We’re very humbled to be honored at this most special time in the history of the organization,” Lee said genuinely.
“The only reason we’re doing it is so she can raise some money!” Frank joked with his impeccable timing, as he smiled directly at Robin.
“The organization is so honored to have the opportunity to be honoring you,” Robin told them as we were finishing up the interview. “Lee and Frank, they are our mentors, they are our friends, they are the ones we call if we have a problem, and they hold us accountable.”
“It’s the highest honor to be chairing this gala and to honor our parents for everything they’ve done for us and for the community,” Anne remarked during our interview. “It’s just wonderful that they can be recognized. It’s a labor of love, but it’s also incredible to be able to honor our parents, but to be able to do it with my sister, it makes it go full circle for me.”
Suzi agreed and then spoke about how her parents are proud of the accomplishments Seacrest has achieved. She concluded by saying how proud she and Anne are to honor their parents. Α
The 2018 Women’s Auxiliary Diamond Anniversary Gala will be on June 2 at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine. Tickets are still available. Go to seacrestfoundation.ejoinme.org/gala18 to R.S.V.P.