Gertrude “Tootie” Forman Dies at 91

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Gertrude “Tootie” Forman was a woman of her century and ahead of her time, said her daughter Sally Pitofsky.

On Tuesday morning, Forman passed away at the age of 91 after a life of kindness and a passion for education, though Pitofsky said her mother’s happiness for life always made her look much younger.

“My mother was the most generous and fun and intelligent, incredible person,” Pitofsky recalled.


Growing up in Depression-era Chicago, Tootie wanted to go to college — a rare occurrence for women at the time. Sure enough, after being stationed in Seattle and serving in the Coast Guard for two years during World War II, she went to the Illinois Institute of Technology through the G.I. Bill and studied psychology.

She became a teacher in the Chicago public school system and taught mostly third and fourth grades. She later taught in California and Florida, as she and her husband, Robert “Bob” Forman, whom she married in 1957, moved their family to different parts of the country for Bob’s job.

She always had a love for music. She played the piano and sang with a “beautiful, high soprano voice,” Pitofsky remembered, adding that she and her own daughter have inherited that singing gene from Forman.

“There was always music in the house,” Pitofsky said. “I took chorus, and she would find pieces for us to sing together.”

Bob Forman worked for the Jewish Federation system across the United States, from Chicago — where the pair first met at a UJA event — to San Francisco, to Philadelphia in 1976, where they remained until his passing in 1991.

Together, they went on mission trips to the Soviet Union and Israel, building daycare centers and homes for the elderly. They were always partners in social change and charity.

According to Pitofsky, both her parents were always supportive of what she and her brother, Jim, wanted to do. When Sally wanted to go to the University of Rochester and later to law school, they supported her decisions, as they did when Jim decided to go to Ithaca College and study broadcast journalism,

“She had a determination about her and a perseverance that really translated to both my brother and myself,” she said of her mother. “Her motto was, ‘Go after what you want and keep going until you achieve your goals’ ”

Her parents were always reading, Pitofsky added. That became the foundation for the two lessons her mother has instilled in her: wisdom and kindness.

“You always were nice to people,” Pitoksky explained of her mother’s philosophy. “You didn’t always judge people. You tried to help people and be respectful. That really translated to how she lived her life.”

For Tootie, no one was a stranger. She would go right up to people and talk to them, eager to learn about who they were.

“It was incredible to watch how people responded to her warm and engaging and funny nature,” Pitofsky recalled. “They really just fell in love with her.”

In addition, she was a loving grandmother to Sally’s children, Jackson and Marina.

“I really think I got my optimistic outlook and passion for life from my mother,” said Pitofsky. “She just enjoyed every minute of life. I just feel really incredibly lucky to have had her. She was really a giving person.”

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