BOSTON (JTA) – For Jeffrey Sanderson, it was the small things in life that brought the most joy.
He couldn’t get enough of old episodes of “I Love Lucy,” and “Leave it to Beaver,” which tickled his sense of humor. An outing to the park, with a stop for french fries at McDonald’s, were adventures of the best kind. And always, sharing jokes with his family was sure to set off fits of laughter.
Sanderson died on April 18 of COVID-19. He was 62 and lived in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
“He was the most endearing person,” said his twin brother, Jay Sanderson, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. “He was funny, he was charming. The things he loved, he really loved. He had such joy for little things.”
The Sanderson brothers grew up on the North Shore of Boston. Just before their fifth birthday, their father died of a heart attack. It was not long after Jeffrey had moved out of the family home for the intensive caretaking he required.
After moving to Los Angeles, Jay Sanderson made frequent cross-country trips to visit his brother and mother, who remained in the area until last summer, when she relocated to a senior residence in California.
Beginning in late March, COVID-19 spread among the four residents of the home where Sanderson had moved only four months before. The decline in his health came quickly, and there was no opportunity to visit before he died. The three other residents survived the virus, Jay Sanderson said.
Because of the pandemic, Jay Sanderson had to inform his mother by phone that Jeffrey had died, even though his mother lives only three miles away.
“I couldn’t comfort her or hug her over the loss of her son,” he said.
Jay Sanderson credits his brother with teaching him about kindness and empathy, lessons that shaped his personal and professional life.
“He taught us how to care for others, how to love without judgment and how to appreciate the little things,” Jay wrote in a letter to friends.
“I do what I do because of him,” said Jay’s son Jonah, a rabbinical student.
“He had the most beautiful neshama,” Jonah said, using the Hebrew word for soul. “He was the most beautiful soul you’d ever see.”
Jeffrey Sanderson leaves his mother, Rhoda Sanderson; brother Jay and his wife, Laura Lampert Sanderson; nephew Jonah and niece Isabelle.