Harry Jacobs, long-time partner of Elaine Golt Gongora, died, with Elaine at his side, on Oct. 20 at the age of 97.
Born in Paterson, Mr. Jacobs is the last of six children of Jacob and Tilly Jacobs, who came to Paterson from the Polish city of Lodz.
Mr. Jacobs, a born storyteller, often told stories about life in Paterson, helping preserve memories of the town’s thriving Jewish community. Some of his most powerful stories were about World War II.
After graduating from East Side High School, he enlisted in the Army to fight the Nazis and was promptly sent to the Pacific. Stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, Mr. Jcobs became a photographer, conducting aerial surveillance and looking out for the “old” guys (40-somethings) in his platoon.
After his discharge in 1945, he went to work for Rayco, an auto maintenance and repair service. It was there he met John “Red” Smith, who became his business partner. In 1973 they founded Montclair Auto Top and Seat Cover Co., still located at the corner of Forest Street and Glenridge Avenue, and the source for some of his best all-time stories. Montclair Auto Top became a destination for classic car owners from all over the Northeast, and the cars they restored won prizes at all the major car shows, including Pebble Beach. (For a good story, do a search for “The Packard in the Pond.”)
Mr. Jacobs and the business gained an additional measure of fame via the cable TV show, “Chasing Classic Cars,” on the Velocity Channel (more good stories).
During his recent illness, he still went to the shop nearly every week. He loved meeting people, he loved cars, he loved selling, he loved the Mets, and he especially loved Elaine.
Mr. Jacobs met Elaine in the 1990s at the Snack Shop on Glenridge Avenue, the neighborhood where she had her fabric and art studio. She knew about him because her father was his accountant and would tell her stories about the fabulous cars. Harry and Elaine have been together ever since. They had a great life together, taking wonderful trips to places like Israel, Europe, California, and, his favorite, the Caribbean.
Donations in Harry Jacob’s memory can be made to B’nai Keshet, 99 S. Fullerton Ave, Montclair, 07042.
Arrangements were by J.L. Apter Memorial Chapels of Cedar Grove.