CHELSEA – Elliot and Donna Katzman have never forgotten their roots. Talk to them for a few minutes and you’ll understand that their morals and values – which carried them from modest childhoods in Chelsea to successful professional careers – were forged during family conversations, which focused on hard work, respect, and love.
Providing respect and dignity to the elderly has always been a core value in the Katzman family, and recently, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare announced that the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, the flagship property of the organization, will be renamed The Katzman Center for Living in honor of Elliot and Donna Katzman.
“Donna and I are truly thankful for the love and kindness that Chelsea Jewish Lifecare has shown our family,” said Elliot, a general partner at Commonwealth Capital Ventures, who has helped build some of New England’s most successful technology companies.
“Our involvement began when my grandmother was a resident of the nursing home over 40 years ago. Fourteen years ago, my parents moved to the Cohen Florence Levine Estates Assisted Living, where today my dad, Myer, still enjoys being a part of this caring community.”
Said Chelsea Jewish Lifecare Chief Executive Officer Barry Berman: “We are enormously grateful to Elliot and Donna Katzman for such a generous gift. I have known the Katzman family for many years and am thrilled to have their name attached to the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home. Their support and friendship mean the world to us.”
Founded in 1919, the non-profit Chelsea Jewish Lifecare is one of the largest providers of senior healthcare services in the region. The Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, soon to be The Katzman Center for Living, underwent a $16 million-dollar renovation in 2016.
Elliot and Donna (Frangiamone) Katzman were classmates at Chelsea High School, and will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next month. Both are Salem State alumni and the proud parents of sons and daughters-in-law Matthew and Katie, and David and Emily. They are even prouder grandparents to granddaughters Nora, Maggie, Julia, and Clara.
While they now live on the North Shore, Chelsea is never far from their thoughts. The couple still visit Chelsea several times a week; Elliot’s father, Myer, a well-known Chelsea native who worked at Sea-lect Foods and Revere Smoked Fish, lives in the Cohen Florence Levine Estates Assisted Living at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, and Donna’s mother, Mary, resided in the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home until she passed away last week. Donna’s father, Jack, died in 2017.
“Just from my mother’s care alone, in the last three months, I have never seen so many dedicated workers,” said Donna. “The nursing staff is phenomenal and they take a personal interest in everybody. They make them feel like they’re in a hotel as opposed to being a nursing facility. They treat everybody with respect.”
For Elliot, naming the building after the Katzman family is a way to honor his parents and the city he learned so much from. Elliot remembers his father’s work ethic – long days spent cutting and serving fish, followed by odd jobs at night to provide for the family. His mother, Marilyn Katzman, was well-known in the Jewish community, and helped start a Yiddish club once she moved to the assisted living facility. She passed away in 2011.
“Our house was full of love,” Elliot said, looking back on his upbringing in the Watts and Willow housing project in Chelsea. “My mother and family always had a lot of love to share.”
Myer Katzman, who is now 88, is still as kind-hearted and modest as he was decades ago when he patiently listened as customers explained life’s challenges while he cut and weighed smoked fish. One day Elliot, then a young teenager, joined his father at work. He observed his father having a difficult day and remembers his father’s advice – important words that motivated and empowered him. “You get an education, you be the boss, and you treat people with respect,” Myer told him.
Myer went on to work for The Butcherie in Brookline – which he loved – before retiring, and after he moved to assisted living, he took on volunteer jobs in his new home. “He’d wake up every morning for years and deliver the newspapers to the residents; he would bus the tables after every meal; he was the only resident that had access to the kitchen because he’s a kitchen guy and they respect him,” Elliot explained.
For Donna, the decision to name the nursing home after the Katzman family seemed like a natural extension of their values. “It’s something that’s close to our heart, and I wanted to leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren,” she said.
Elliot, who serves on the Board of Trustees of Salem State University, and previously served on the board at St. John’s Preparatory School, said he’s glad his father will have an opportunity to see the Katzman family name on the building. “It’s the only way we can have a Chelsea legacy of some kind,” he said. “My dad has always been known as the unofficial mayor of Chelsea, and having him see his name while he’s still alive is a big deal.”