Baltimore, MD—November 15, 2016 - Ronit Borck says she doesn’t know how her husband, Lonnie, a”h, found the time to do the plethora of things he did—several of them unbeknownst even to her---all while he ran his business, responded to Hatzalah calls, and helped her raise a family of five children, including 2-year-old twin boys. He was an amazing son, husband, father, provider, friend, and mentor; he loved his family, friends, and community. In commemoration of Lonnie’s short but very full life and his upcoming Shaloshim, (see announcement , below) the following are just a few “Lonnie stories”.
A Loving Son
Lonnie’s parents, who are close to ninety, were staying at the Borcks the Shabbos he was niftar. They had a condo in town that the Borcks were renovating for them before their move to Baltimore. Right before that Shabbos, a railing to the basement had just finished being built. While going down the stairs, Lonnie’s father mentioned that the railing was not good. When Ronit expressed to Lonnie her concern about having her in-laws, he replied that he wants to put an addition onto their house. That was one of the last conversations that Lonnie and Ronit had.
A Loyal Friend
Lonnie, a”h, was very shaken up by his close friend, Daniel Lansky’s, a”h, petira. In fact, at the very end of Daniel’s life, his wife, Elana, told Ronit that Lonnie was the go-to person if she needed anything.
There were six months of regular daily texts between Daniel and Lonnie. One in particular, written by Daniel, said how much it meant to him that Lonnie asked him on a regular basis how he was and if there was anything that he needed. Mostly what he needed, he said, was the knowledge that someone was remembering and was there for him. When things became difficult for him to help Daniel himself, Lonnie arranged for others to step in and be there for him as well. Even Ronit didn’t know what Lonnie was doing for him.
"Lonnie was the person I called whenever I needed anything medically,” says Elana. “Daniel’s oncologist never heard of the personal medical attention and resources we were able to get through Lonnie and his association with Hatzalah. They were in awe of how we were able to get the help we needed for Daniel--all led by Lonnie. He made the impossible possible for us. I knew I could always count on him.
"I remember Daniel needed something from Shoppers after one of his chemo treatments and Lonnie ran there, picked it up, and had it at our door within 20 minutes,” continues Elana. “He always ran with zerizus to do a mitzvah and lend a helping, caring, thoughtful hand to those in need. He never made you feel like it was difficult or a burden for him to do. He always made us feel like he was on his way, anyway."
Elana also recalled how Lonnie went to her shiva house with a pack of light bulbs because he knew the Lanskys needed them in their chandelier. Ironically, at Lonnie’s shiva house, Stacey Goldenberg, director of operations at the Jewish Caring Network, mentioned to Ronit that Lonnie recently said to her, ‘We really need to do something for these women who lose their husbands.’
Like a Brother
Chuckie Epstein expressed, "He was my brother. We were in NCSY together. He went to MTA in New York for ninth grade but came to Baltimore for 10th grade and stayed in the dorms in TA. When the dorm closed down for the following school year Lonnie came to live with my mother and me. He didn't board at our house, he lived with us and was part of the family. He was with us for all of 11th grade and 12th grade. We both went to Israel together albeit to different yeshivas. After spending several years in Israel, when I finally returned home after four years, Lonnie moved back in with us for a few more years. I was an only child and he was my brother. It's a huge loss. It's still hasn't really set in."
A Baal Chesed
Years ago, no school would take in a particular boy who was in the eleventh grade. Lonnie picked up the phone, called a yeshiva in Israel, and said, ‘You are taking this boy; I am vouching for this boy.’ When this boy’s mother came to Lonnie’s shiva house to express her gratitude to his family for what he did for her son, she mentioned that Lonnie could not vouch for him since he didn’t even know him. In fact, she couldn’t even vouch for her own son.
Today, this young man is married, has a large family, and lives in Israel; he never came back. He is a role model father and a successful person. He is not just learning in one of the most prominent yeshivos in the world, he is a Shoel Umashiv. In addition, he is a mentor, learns privately with bochurim, and is taking psychology courses. This mother never knew her son thanked Lonnie properly and was amazed to find out, in the shiva house, that Ronit still has the air mailed letter that her son wrote to Lonnie expressing his appreciation.
“He is more than he ever would have been because of Lonnie,” the mother shared in the shiva house. “I have tremendous hakaras hatov to the people who gave my child a hug when I could not. Lonnie gave him that emotional hug by believing in him and giving him that shot that he took.”
A Man of Principle
In his business, Lonnie would purchase Jewish domains; he acquired mainly to make sure that they went into the right hands. Even an exorbitant sum of money, offered to him by a missionary organization, could not entice him to sell one of them.
A Caring Neighbor
The Borcks had lived in their present home for a year when Lonnie was niftar. It bothered Lonnie that they did not know their non-observant neighbors since their paths did not cross. Ronit admits she could have walked past them and would not even have known who they were. The day before Succos, Lonnie went over to their house and invited them for dinner on the first night of Succos. They unhesitatingly accepted the invitation. They shared a beautiful meal together, and now Ronit and her children have the gift of knowing their next door neighbors.
Aryeh Meister told BaltimoreJewishLife.com, “Lonnie was such a special guy; such a special neshama. We started learning together a couple of years ago. He very much wanted to learn; it was very important to him. Lonnie was involved with so many things, in addition to his work. He had a passion for learning. For a while, we learned in the middle of the day in his office--mussar and machshava kinds of seforim. No matter what he was in the middle of doing, no matter how many things he was always busy with, he would try as hard as he could to drop everything to learn. For a while, we would learn in his home every night. No matter what was going on in his home, he sat down at the table and we would learn. It was so important for him to have that learning during the day—even if it was for 20 minutes. One of the last text messages I received from Lonnie asked when we were continuing our learning, since we had discontinued over the summer. ‘I meant to call you. I want to learn next week. Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.’ The last text I received from him said, ‘Do say Tehilim for Doniel.’
“When I was 15 years old, I went to my first NCSY Shabbaton in Silver Spring,” reminisced Nechemia Weinreb. “Lonnie, who was about five years older than me, was an advisor and I became very close to him. He never made you feel like he was doing you a favor or he was trying to help you out; he just made you feel like he was your friend. He was always trying to help people and be good to them. Lonnie was a role model for me and showed me how to do things that you believe in and to be a giver and to do what you think is right, no matter what, and never give up. Lonnie was a real person who just wanted to help people and do the right thing and teach people about Yiddishkeit. He was a very, very special person. He was like a Big Brother to me until I got married. He would just do anything for anybody. I am just one of many people who was helped out by Lonnie Borck and he will be missed dearly by so many.”
Rabbi Moshe Margolese recalls, "Lonnie and Ronit brought me into their home and into their life when I was a teenager. I spent at least a year and a half with them, going frequently for Shabbos. During that time, I worked for Lonnie in the Brasserie and on the side, helping him with all his other projects. He kept me busy in his warehouse all summer long. It never felt like he was doing a chesed for me; I always felt like I was busy and productive working for Lonnie. He gave me a meaning and a purpose at that time. I was part of their family. It was a very great, comfortable, wonderful, warm, loving second home.
“Lonnie really mentored me by helping me with work ethic, teaching me the importance of thanking the people who help you out, and helping me make smarter choices,” continues Rabbi Margolese. “He encouraged me to learn in Eretz Yisrael; which I did for three years. He had me call different people in the community to fundraise for myself so I could afford to go. He came up with a plan for me, regarding who I was going to call. I think he even set these people up in advance of my calling. He didn’t do it for me, but helped me accomplish my own goal, myself. Lonnie was a role model adult for me-- a go-getter, involved in business, Torah and his family. Somehow he had time for everything. He was so proud of me when I became involved with Lev Shlomo and really beamed when I joined Ohr Chadash. I told him he had a chalek in whatever it was that I was doing; it gave him nachas.
“Lonnie and Ronit loved to be involved,” concludes Rabbi Margolese. “They would host people for Shabbos all the time. He was a natural in connecting with all people; he was a hocker. He was extremely loving, supportive, encouraging. I feel a tremendous amount of hakaras hatov to Lonnie. It is the little things that make a big difference. He really cared about me--he helped me, nurtured me, supported me, and believed in me. Lonnie and Ronit, for sure, played a very significant part of my life. He gave me a job, gave me an open home for Shabbos, and gave me the belief that I can accomplish whatever it is that I want to accomplish. He invested his time in me for a year or two, and that created a beautiful friendship for many years."
Reaching Out to the Less Fortunate
“Moshe was always in the Borcks house,” relates Chaya Liebes about her special needs son. “I would always tell Moshe to stop going to the Borcks and stop bothering them, but Ronit would always tell me that she wanted her children to know him and it was good for them to be around him. They didn’t mind him coming over. My friends with special needs children would tell me, over the years, that Shabbos was the hardest time for their children, when they are home the whole day, without visitors. My son is the busiest, because he is hopping from one house to the next, but it was really Lonnie who did all this to get him involved and make him feel like a person. My son is still not involved with any special needs activities. I know that Lonnie made him feel like a mainstream person. He is involved now only in a mainstream environment; I think it is all from Lonnie.”
Lonnie was always getting all sorts of stuff for Moshe--like the Donald Trump socks he ordered for him, before Succos, which he never had a chance to personally give him. Lonnie got Moshe involved with Hatzalah and even gave him a Hatzalah uniform. But like any mutual friendship, it was a give and take one. When Moshe graduated from high school, he was allowed to take two guests in addition to his parents; he chose Lonnie for one of them. Lonnie attended, even though it took place on Friday. He helped the Borcks pack up and move, and helped build their succah.
“Lonnie was very giving and caring and always took in different types of people and made them part of his family,” says Mrs. Liebes. “In fact, the Borck twins call him “Uncle Moshe”. Last year, when my son was honored by our shul, Darchei Tzedek, at its banquet, Lonnie spoke about him.”
Besides taking an interest in Moshe, Lonnie showed his characteristic care and concern for Moshe’s family, as well. Moshe’s grandfather, who resides in Levindale, would not have been able to attend two of Moshe’s siblings’ weddings had Lonnie not arranged for Hatzalah to have him transported by ambulance.
“Moshe works in Seven Mile Market and for O’Fishel, and rides in the NWCP patrol car—he’s all around town. He has a life all because of Lonnie. He’s a people person. Because Lonnie was very involved with Moshe, other people became involved with him and started inviting him for Shabbos and Yomim Tovim. He eats at home for two nights of Rosh Hashanah and the Sederim; the rest of time, he eats out. Lonnie gets the credit for all this!”
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Lonnie knew Ronit’s adopted brother with special needs—who lives in a group home near upstate New York-- since he was a kid, and always made an effort to maintain a close relationship with him.
“It wasn’t always easy for my sisters and me; our brother can be difficult to handle and often cuts off communication with us, but through it all Lonnie always tried to be in touch with him,” says Ronit. “Every summer we would make the trip to visit him, pick him up, drive to Woodbourne, New York, and take him out to dinner. Not only would we take him out, Lonnie would totally wine and dine him, picking up food at every restaurant for him and sending him home with takeout for the rest of the week! After we had the twins, it was hard for me to make the trip, so Lonnie would go by himself, or with one or two of the kids. He knew that Josh looked forward to it all year, and it meant so much to both of them.”
Erev Shabbos Phone Calls
“I don’t know how he did it, but Lonnie called so many people every Friday--his cousins who had lost their father and brother a few years ago (after their brother died, Lonnie told them that he’s their brother, and called them every Friday), his good friend David Chapman, his non-religious friend Scott Ross in Miami--who had very different political views than him and they would argue but he still loved him and called him anyway-- of course his parents, Jules Friedman, and the list goes on. So many people came to shiva and said that they had just spoken to Lonnie that Friday! He just cared about everyone!”