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MADOFF

Adelaide Madoff, born Adelaide Mittleman to mother Goldie and father Louis on July 16, 1924, died peacefully at the age of 97 on August 27, 2021, in West Hartford, Conn. Hers was a life of the middle-class American dream of progress and prosperity, her lineage traced from shtetls to sweatshops to a postwar ascent into the idyll of suburban sunlight across small lawns. She was raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and later in the Bronx, where she went to Roosevelt High School and then to Hunter College, a bastion like other public colleges of the city of a burgeoning Jewish intelligentsia, graduating in 1946. A child of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants, she spoke Yiddish before English, lived in tenements filled with the smells of borscht and boiled meat, a time of box-pleat skirts and atom bombs, her mother ruined by schizophrenia. Adelaide somehow found her way into the museums of the city, falling in love with art, and took up painting amid her college studies and afterward as an art librarian at Hunter. One day, needing watercolor supplies, she walked into a paint store not far from her home in the Bronx. A young man at the counter, working on the weekends for his father, while attending Columbia after the war, looked up to find this elegantly slender young woman with dark brown hair in a fashionable pageboy and deep brown eyes. She came back again not long after on another weekend, perhaps intrigued by more than paints, and Henry Alexander Madoff asked her out for a chocolate egg cream on the following afternoon. They were married two years later in 1948, honeymooned pleasurably, if predictably, at Niagara Falls. First they lived in the Bronx, with the paint store now his after his father’s sudden death, then later in the Inwood neighborhood at the tip of Manhattan, and finally, with the vast exodus out of the city just at the moment of the ‘Summer of Love’, in West Hartford, where they remained together in the same two-story brick house along a cookie-cutter street of postwar, petit-bourgeois modesty for the next 49 years. She smoked Parliament cigarettes, drank whiskey sours, and danced to swing jazz in the living room with Henry. He died in the sixty-eighth year of their marriage, in 2016, and Adelaide, crying at his deathbed, “My sweet, sweet boy,” survived him the past five years. A quiet life, trips to Maine and London and Copenhagen, though other moments of sadness besides Henry’s death arrived, too-her mother’s death in an asylum, her father’s quiet passing, and her daughter, Emily, first in the throes of multiple sclerosis, then dying of breast cancer at 47 in 1999. Nothing ever overcame that for her. From a tiny family, Adelaide was an only child, a lover of poetry who gave that gift to her son, Steven Henry Madoff, who survives her with his two children, Lucian and Sloan.

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