Jewish comedian Marty Allen passed away Monday at the age of 95 from complications of pneumonia.
His wife and performing partner, singer-songwriter Karon Kate Blackwell was at his side, according to his spokesperson, Candi Cazau.
Marty Allen, a World War II veteran, was born Morton David Alpern in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Louis and Elsie Alpern on March 23, 1922. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps right after graduating Taylor Allderdice High School in 1940.
Allen was stationed in Italy during World War II, where he attained the rank of sergeant and earned a Soldier’s Medal for bravery as well as the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Allen was best known for his signature phrase, “Hello dere!”
He was part of the comedy duo, Allen & Rossi, and worked in Hollywood during the time of the Rat Pack. He also appeared on Broadway in the early 60s before moving into television, where he began to perform dramatic roles as well. But he was best known for his work with Steve Rossi, and later for his performances with his wife from the 1980s through 2015, and a final performance in 2016 in New York.
In an interview with the Jewish Reporter of Las Vegas in 2009, Allen explained, “I was fueling a plane and the motor that fuels the plane caught on fire. I jumped in the fuel truck and drove it away, then went back and crawled underneath the plane into the bomb bay and rolled on the fire until it was put out. The next thing I know they gave me a medal (and a full-dress parade).”
Like many Jewish performers, Allen was involved in a number of charitable causes, nearly all of them health-related. He told the Jewish Reporter that he attended synagogue and had been “very active in Chabad.)
But one of the most striking bits of information – and the least well known – is something that Allen wrote about Israel that he shared with the Las Vegas paper during that 2009 interview.
“Let me read it to you,” he said. “Nobody else has this; I’m giving it to you. Forgive me, but I always get choked up when I read this and I cry. It’s called, ‘An Israeli Speaks.’
“Here I am in the warmth of
the Temple praying to my G-d.
As I hold my prayer book, my
eyes gaze away from the page to my
wrist and the number etched into my
I, who have experienced the
Holocaust can never tear out of my
brain that nightmare and try to
remember the tremendous will to live
and how, with the help of G-d, I was
able to reach our homeland, Eretz
… and now another day
comes to mind – Yom Kippur.
I remember standing here in
deep meditation when my thoughts
were shattered by the sound of guns.
What is happening?
… and then my son, my
beautiful son, said to me:
“My dear father, I must leave
your side, the Arabs have attacked.
Our country calls and I must go and
defend our homeland. Pray that my
return will be soon.”
He kissed my cheek and I
held him so close. I didn’t want to let
him go and with all my strength, I
clutched him to my heart – my beautiful
… and now they say Peace
is about to come, the guns are silent
and I turn and look up the aisle and
yearn to to see that handsome face,
smile, walk up to me, put on his
tallis and share my Sabbath; but
through my tears, I know he will not
return my son.
Yes, I gave! Yes, I gave!”
Boruch Dayan HoEmes.