Ackerman - Wife
Ackerman - Son
Lauren Ackerman Forte
Ari David Ackerman - Son
Kim Seifeth - Niece
Joel Ackerman - Brother
On the floor of the 1984 Presidential
convention, Gary was caught snoozing on the shoulder
of his wife Rita.
Rita, Gary’s Wife, what would he do with out her?
Gary is not an ordinary man. When I married Gary, a school
teacher, so many years ago, I never imagined the journey
we would take together. The steps along the way, to say
the least, have been exciting, sometimes challenging and
What can I say about a man who thinks that soy sauce sprinkled
on rye bread is wholesome and who can’t pass a garage
sale without braking or thinks that supermarket shopping
should be an olympic event?
What can I say about a man who’s mission, both in
public and private life, has always been to help others
and who is passionate about his principles and is steadfast
in his determination to make our world a kinder and
What can I say about a man who can spend hours in Home Depot
comparing switch plates and whose collections of hats, fishing
rods, carnation holders, tools, autographs, campaign
buttons and stamp albums, to name a few, forced us to buy
a bigger house? Gary gives new meaning to the word “sprawl.”
What can I say about a man who has filled my world
with family and friendship, with smiles and flowers, with
joy and with laughter?
The answer can be summed up by simply saying —
I love him.
difficult to put into words what you think should be obvious
to everyone else. My father is the kind of person that people,
including my family, happily and willingly gravitate toward.
It has nothing to do with the fact that he is important,
or that he is funny (if only sometimes). It has to do with
the fact that his open heart and open mind are always feeling,
listening, and thinking.
It is clear that he has become a better politician over
the years. Experience will do that to a person. However,
what my family and I try not to take for granted is that
he has also become a better father, and since his starting
point was “great,” it has been a pretty special
ride for us.
His improvements as a politician and father have paralleled
each other because the same qualities which make him a dedicated
and terrific politician make him doubly terrific as a father.
He started his career as a teacher, a job that requires
not only patience, understanding, and an ability to communicate
ideas, but more importantly, the ability to make people
want to think, analyze, and question the status quo for
themselves. It has been over 30 years since he held a teaching
post, but his mastery of these qualities has only improved.
To have a father with such qualities, combined with love
and acceptance, have had a profound effect on me, and I
am sure on the rest of my family as well. I am certain that
these same attributes have had a similar effect on the people
he serves. He has taught us to have open minds when it comes
to choosing friends and spouses, and to try to recognize
people’s similarities despite superficial differences.
He has tried to stress to us the importance of individual
rights, most recently with respect to freedom of speech.
Not only do his efforts in these areas make us immensely
proud of him, but have also shaped our outlook on legal,
political, and human issues. If more politicians and fathers
were like my dad – passionate, open, and honest –
we could go a long way as a county, and even further as
being good as sons and daughters.
He is the best father, teacher, and friend a son could ever
dad is Gary Ackerman? You’re kidding!?”
When people I’ve met find out that you are my dad,
they are astounded. I forget that not everyone is raised
on political ground. I forget that not everyone knows someone
who spends their days distinguishing between what is right
and fair from all the rest.
I forget that not everyone grew up watching someone who
champions causes, defends human rights, works for policy
change, and day in and day out fights the good fight. I
forget that people know you, recognize you, and see you
differently from the way I do.
Because most of the time, to me, you’re just Dad.
And it’s for all of the ordinary “Dad”
things you do that I want to recognize here.
You helped teach me to tell time and to ride a bike. You
let me raid your closet in the eighties when the craze was
for girls to wear men’s button-down work shirts tied
up at the waist. You helped teach me to drive a car and
do my taxes. When I was home from college, you would stuff
extra cash in my jacket pocket in case I needed to buy something
on the drive up to school.
You go out of your way to make me vegetarian soup and then
offer to bring it over to my house when I tell you I don’t
have time to stop by to pick it up. You’re the one
I call in a panic when I can’t figure out how to do
stuff. You’ve always loved me unconditionally, and
you welcomed my husband into our family with such an open
heart. And if that wasn’t enough, you and Mom threw
us the greatest wedding this tomboy could ever want!
I’ve always recognized the things you had to sacrifice
in order to do your job well, Dad, and I can only hope you
know how proud I am to be your daughter. I’ve always
thought it was amazing that you had a job where you were
able to help people no matter what their problems were.
But the best part of you there is to know is that you’re
always there to help me, and our family, when we need you
most. You’ll always have all my love and support.
a call from someone today asking me to write a few words
about my dad for a tribute to be published by the Queens
At first, I was a bit hesitant for a number of reasons.
The first was the enormity of the task. My father’s
a giant. A man who from humble beginnings and against many
odds forged a path that led to a series of unrivaled successes
– a loving wife and family (which grows and flourishes),
a comfortable home, even a pet (or four). His career has
reached soaring heights, so much so that a Jewish boy growing
up in Brooklyn a half-century ago would have dreamed it
But the guy asked me to talk more about Gary as a man, or
as a father. After all, I am his youngest son. I haven’t
seen my dad in some time, and he might be surprised to learn
I feel this way, but he has not only been an inspiration
to me, but a hero. Because of his position in government
and his role in world politics, I didn’t get to spend
the time with him growing up that a child hopes to with
his father, but knowing him, I’ve learned volumes.
I learned to always find the courage to go after the things
I want to achieve in life – to keep a steady course,
an eye on the ball, and the commitment to follow through.
Most importantly, he taught me to keep asking the questions
that need answering and fighting the fights that need fighting.
And I think that’s the only way in which I’ll
ever really fail my dad. I could never rival his wit and
charm, his dedication or his talent. I don’t “champion
causes” as he does, nor can I realistically hope to
make even a fraction of the impact on the world as he has
But I’m OK with that, and anyone who feels about him
as I do will agree. We can’t all be heroes. That’s
why we have them.
can I say about my exuberant, larger than life Uncle Gary?
The Uncle that lives in New York whom I consider a celebrity?
The uncle who chats with Howard Stern and is one of the
US Congresspersons that Howard actually
likes! The uncle that travels to far away lands and
meets with very important people?
can I say about the man that is brother to my father, who
unconditionally adores, admires, and loves him beyond words?
The uncle that I often see on TV. The guy that I call
all my friends and family about when he is recognized in
the media for his controversies and accomplishments.
funny, loving uncle who is known to sleep on a boat in the
What can I say about my Uncle Gary? I don’t
know, I’ll have to think...
my brother.” I must have said that a million
times growing up in Flushing. I’d meet someone
and they would hear my name was Ackerman and I’d
get the question, ”Do you know Gary?” And
I always said it with pride, still do. “He’s
My brother, Gary, was everywhere when we were growing
up; he knew just about everybody and everybody knew him.
And he did it all.
He got involved with everything as a kid. He worked
at the Y, became director; he became an Eagle Scout; he
was the director of Ten Mile River Boy Scout Camp in the
summer; he was the founder and first president
of a Queens College Houseplan (Playboy); he was the
editor of the Queens College Newspaper; he was vice
president of the Student Association; president of the senior
class; was involved in helping to desegregate schools
in the south; helped in several NYC election campaigns.
And those are just some of the things that he did before
he was old enough to vote that I remember as his little
As Gary’s only sibling I hate to say he has
always been terrific but that is the truth. Boring,
yes, but very true. I can’t even say we have
ever had an argument (other than if the window in our shared
bedroom as kids should stay open or closed-he always won). And
by the way , did I mention he is the funniest person I know?
And our parents couldn’t have been prouder of their
oldest boy. Our mother always called him “My
Gary” and that probably was an omen of how others
would see him because Gary has always been there for so
many people: in our family, with his friends and with his
community and country.
He’s passionate, informed, fun, invoved, open minded....he’s
the best brother a person could have.