“I’m the widow Poston,” Suzanne Pleshette said as the “services” wound down at Hillside Sunday afternoon. “I said that for single men here,” she continued comically. She then started remarks reading her introductions to the eulogies she had delivered at funeral services for Eva Gabor and Lew Wasserman! She had the crowd laughing hysterically. It was pure Pleshette comedy. And it was a full house–overflow–outside the large chapel.
Pleshette continued explaining how her first husband, Tom Gallagher, III, a non-Jew (as was Poston), was buried in Hillside Memorial Park whose prayer book informs, “Keeping Jewish Families Together.” Suzanne said, “If you see a plaque (on the grave site) saying ‘Tommy Goldberg,’ it’s him.” She noted Poston “was the quintessential Gentile but was the best Tevya in ‘Fiddler on The Roof’ you ever saw when he played it in Milwaukee. He had seen ‘My Fair Lady’ with Rex Harrison and was gong to make Tevye British (not Yiddish)!” Suzanne segued into the tender telling of her love for Tom, their first affair, 48 years ago, continuing to their recent sad, simultaneous stay in the hospital. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as she spoke of their love. Later, when the mourners proceeded to the grave site they saw the plaque on Gallagher’s plot did indeed bear his real name–not “Goldberg.” There is an empty space between the two men’s resting places–it’s for Suzanne. She led the burial service, giving instructions to the workers, turning the first shovelful as family and friends lined up to follow suit
There was no prayer book–instead, a graphic program with color Poston portraits on front and back was given to each person. The back cover carries the vintage painitng of Poston which hangs in Sardi’s. His inscription: “It’s great to be hung. And even greater to be hung in Sardi’s.” The speakers in the program ranged from his WWII buddy, Eli Setencich, to his longtime managers Larry Brezner and David Steinberg, then Howard Storm whose name faces a photo of “Yarmy’s Army” (charitable) with whom Poston appeared over the years. Dave Thomas and Chuck Lorre told hysterically funny–yet warm-revealing stories of Poston on- and offstage. But son Jason unveiled the real man, the father, in another emotional speech. Suzanne followed. Rarely heard applause in this setting filled the room. Pallbearers were brought up to escort the simple casket out to the car, which would take him to his final resting place, high atop the park, overlooking the Al Jolson memorial. Bob Newhart was one of the pallbearers. He said he was thankful not to have been asked to speak–he would have been too emotional in his affection for his longtime friend and coworker. To close the “ceremony” (there were no prayers), Tom’s daughter Francesca Poston, Peter Marshall and Jack Sheldon sang/played “Bye, Bye Blackbird.” Tom Poston died April 17. He was 85. He wasn’t Jewish, but he sure was a mensch.