Gartenberg missed as father, alum president

BY SHANNON PETTYPIECE
Daily News Editor
Published September 10, 2002

NEW YORK - Home videos, photo albums and Michigan football have taken on a new meaning for Jill Gartenberg after losing her husband, Jim Gartenberg, in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

With two young daughters, 3-year-old Nicole and 6-month-old Jamie, Jill is doing all she can to make sure her girls have the chance to learn about the father.

"We talk about Daddy every day and that is important to Nicole to do that because she likes to hear about him more and more," Jill said.

Nicole loves to hear stories about her father and regularly watches old home videos of the two of them.

Since Jamie never got to meet her father, and Nicole was only two years old, Jill makes sure to talk to her children about their father daily.

She has put together a colorful photo book with pictures and stories of Jim through which she tells the girls what their father used to enjoy doing with them, happy moments they shared, and silly things they did together.

Jill also keeps a scrapbook of all the stories written about their father so the girls have a written record of who he was.

Since Sept. 11, her children have taken on an even more significant role in the working mom's life since they are now two of the only living links to her husband.

"I think I just cherish my children more than ever because they're special gifts my husband and I created together," Jill said.

Her ability to take on the role of both parents while dealing with her own personal loss has taken courage and determination along with the support of her friends and family.

"I'm making it though day-by-day with the help of this one," Gartenberg said as she affectionately played with daughter Nicole's braids.

"People ask me how I do it and I do it because there's no alternative, and when I have kids I have a responsibility to me and my husband and do the best I can under this situation."

While both Jill and Jim were devoted Michigan fans and University alums, Jill has had to take over the task once filled by Jim of teaching her daughters about the University and Michigan sports so they can carry on the family tradition of Maize and Blue. Jim served as president of the NYC chapter of the University's alumni association.

Jill, Nicole and Jamie each have a complete ensemble of University wear from blue and yellow ponytail holders to a bib for Jamie that reads, "I'm a little Wolverine."

Jill will not be going to Ground Zero today during the commemorative events. Instead she will be spending time with her family and friends, who have been her pillar of strength over the past year, she said.

"I'll spend time with family and friends because that is what has gotten me thought the past year and will help keep me strong," Jill said.