Famous WWII veteran and Brooklyn writer Norman Wasserman dies at 96


Norman Wasserman in his army uniform during WWII. Photo courtesy of the Wasserman family

Norman Wasserman, a Brooklyn Heights resident, a decorated World War II veteran known for his composure, intelligence and zest for life, died on September 4. He was 96 years old.

Enlisted as a teenager, Wasserman traveled to Europe and joined the 286th Field Artillery Observation Battalion in General George S. Patton’s Third Army in 1944. US soldiers were hit hard. furious German for six weeks during the coldest winter on record in Luxembourg. Winston Churchill described the Battle of the Bulge as “the greatest American battle of the war”.

In May 2012, at the age of 87, Wasserman traveled to West Point with 38 other American soldiers to receive the French Legion of Honor, for his bravery in the bloody Battle of the Bulge. The prestigious medal symbolizes “the infinite gratitude and appreciation of France”, according to the Consulate General of France.

“It was an amazing honor, and I feel a little humble,” Wasserman told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The French appreciate being freed by American troops, at such a high price.

Norman Wasserman at an event honoring veterans at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2016.
Eagle photo by Mary Frost

For decades, Wasserman has been the guest of honor at veterans events in Brooklyn. Toba Potosky, who has worked for years renovating the war memorial at Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn, contacted him in 2015. “When I first called to introduce myself, I asked him what he was doing. had done in recent years. His response was, “I was waiting for you to call me,” Potosky said.

In 2009, on the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, Wasserman was one of six American veterans invited by the Luxembourg government to participate in commemorative ceremonies. In an essay he wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle about this visit, he said: “The people of Luxembourg have not forgotten. The important events of this period are indelible in their history, their terrain, their textbooks, their museums, their monuments, their vigils in December and their warm hospitality towards Americans.

Decorated WWII veteran and writer Norman Wasserman. Photo courtesy of the Wasserman family

Ed Marinello, a fellow Brooklyn man who met Wasserman in the military, has become a longtime friend. Wasserman’s elegance, sense of humor, and advanced gun skills (he was the battery’s only sniper) led to his nickname “The Wasp,” Marinello said.

A Brooklynite for life

Norman A. Wasserman was born in Brooklyn in 1924 and raised in Gravesend. After the war he attended UC Berkeley on the GI Bill. He then moved to a basement apartment on Bank Street in Greenwich Village, where he became a writer and served tables.

“He often invited me to sit with budding writers circles at the New School,” Marinello said. These included William Styron and George Mandel, as well as Mario Puzo, who was part of Wasserman’s poker group. His social circle also included artists such as abstract expressionist Nell Blaine.

In 1954, Wasserman picked up a painting from a picture frame store that he came to believe was an unattributed “drip” painting by Jackson Pollock. Proving his authenticity was a project that would demand his attention for decades. This saga was reported in detail in 1992 by the New York Times.

He married Nina Horowitz in 1963. The couple raised two children, daughter Jennifer (now Jennifer Wassermiller) and son Gabriel in Brooklyn Heights. Wassermiller said her father played soccer and Frisbee in the park with her and her brother. She remembers going down the steps “to take a walk in his beloved Brooklyn”.

Norman Wasserman in an undated family photo. Photo courtesy of the Wasserman family

Wasserman was a gifted writer, working freelance for various publications before joining the public relations firm Ruder & Finn 1968, where he advanced to become vice president, retiring from the agency in 1986.

He remained extraordinarily young until his last years. “He played like a kid with his grandchildren and tossed them in the air with as much joy as they felt,” Wassermiller said. She described her father as “a beautiful movie star. He was gracious and funny, and loved to guide budding writers. He was his grandchildren’s favorite editor and was a great listener.

Wasserman remained married to Nina for 39 years until his death from cancer in 2002.

When he married Tatiana in 2004, he called her his “extension of life”.

“But I can say that it has also been an extension of my life,” said Tatyana Wasserman. She described her husband as “an independent man, a free spirit, a survivor and a soldier”.

“I admired his taste, his manners, his kindness and his warmth,” she said. “His love for art, literature, nature, his concern for people he knew, old and new friends, visits to the ballet, to the country house, to Coney Island where he wanted to revisit his childhood. , made us very close. “

Norman Wasserman was a frequent guest of honor at veterans events in Brooklyn. He supported the effort to renovate and reopen the downtown Brooklyn war memorial, which can be seen behind him in this 2015 photo. File photo of the eagle by Mary Frost

Wasserman’s biggest passion in life was writing, she said. “It was his hardest job, endless hours of researching, collecting materials, writing and rewriting something that is already beautiful, in search of perfection – it was real Norman.”

His granddaughter Sasha said: “He left behind many binders of his poems, plays, memoirs, letters and essays. Spanning decades, all meticulously annotated. It is not for me that I lose the privilege of having these intimate archives ”.

In his last days, when it became clear that he couldn’t finish his novel, he asked his grandchildren to finish his work.

Zamir Wassermiller, Wasserman’s grandson, said Wasserman had a “warrior spirit”. Reflecting on the life and accomplishments of your grandfather “seems vast, intimidating. I try to remember a sentiment he practiced to conceive of such prosperity: enjoy the moment. “

His granddaughter Chloe bought a copy of The Odyssey to read with him while he was in the hospital. “I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Norman and Ulysses – both are well known for their intelligence, wisdom, storytelling, loyalty, and immense love for their wives.” Like Ulysses, Wasserman was “a man of many faces. He had so many diapers. Every time you saw it there was something new, ”she said.

Although famous for his role in World War II, Wasserman was against war in general, Tatyana Wasserman said. At that time, soldiers were allowed to take home a pistol as a souvenir of the war. On the way back from Europe, standing on the deck of the Queen Mary, Wasserman pulled out the pistol and threw it into the ocean.

His friends and family have said Wasserman was extremely disciplined. His grandson Axel said “he rarely indulged in anything, a little dessert. It made us all realize that we should do the same.

Phyllis Beinstein, a family friend for over 50 years, said: “He had so many roles in him, and each time you spent time with him there was a deepening of what you knew about. him… and it was always a counterpoint. its playful, childish and playful side. She said Wasserman had told her repeatedly, “The most precious thing you have to give someone is your time.”

Wasserman embodied the saying, “Die young as late as possible,” said Tatyana Wasserman. “Until the end of his life he was never old.”

A funeral service with military honors was held at Wellwood Cemetery in Babylon, Long Island on September 8, 2021, which was immediately followed by a shiva memorial service.

Norman is predeceased by his first wife Nina Wasserman, siblings Ruth Morse and Connie Albert, and parents Harry and Esther. He is survived by his wife Tatyana Wasserman of 16 years, his daughter Jennifer Wassermiller (Paul) and his son Gabriel Wasserman (Jackie) as well as five grandchildren: Zamir, Aram, Sasha, Chloe and Axel.

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