PALM HARBOR — Arline Rosenblatt treated years of preschool children who cycled through her synagogue as if they were her own. Family meant everything, and the people she saw regularly became part of hers.
She filled the shelves and windowsills of her home with gifts from loved ones. A coffee mug stands next to candles overlooking a screened porch: "God made grandmas because he likes happiness," reads one, near a matching cup for grandpas.
"Anything you gave her she didn't use, she just put it out," said Irene Lipensky, Mrs. Rosenblatt's daughter. Most gifts from the family wound up on display.
The refrigerator is covered with photos of grandchildren and former students. For more than 20 years, Mrs. Rosenblatt taught at Temple Ahavat Shalom, teaching children everything from Jewish symbols to reading. The Pinellas Early Childhood Association honored Mrs. Rosenblatt in 2003 as its teacher of the year.
"My youngest got to kindergarten in public school," said Eve Goldstein, 47. "She said, 'We did this in Mrs. Rosenblatt's class.' That would have been two years previous."
Her students kept in touch as they grew up. She was proud of herself for being able to find their text messages on her phone, but could never execute a reply.
She was 18 when she married Bill, her high school boyfriend in Brooklyn. They lived in Commack, N.Y., where he worked as an interior decorator, then Long Island before moving to Palm Harbor in 1983. The couple faced a steep challenge when their son, Alan, was partially paralyzed in an accident and subjected to seizures.
Some authorities recommended he be institutionalized. His mother would not hear of it.
Today, Alan Rosenblatt still works part-time at Target, a job he has held for 30 years. Among Mrs. Rosenblatt's prized household art is a ceramic mosaic valentine her son created with one hand.
In 1998, Bill Rosenblatt was diagnosed with early Alzheimer's disease. His wife cared for him until 2005, when doctors insisted he go to a nursing home.
As the years wore on and his alertness faded, her children suggested it might be his time. "I'm not going to give up on him," she replied between daily visits.
In December, doctors diagnosed Mrs. Rosenblatt with late-stage lung cancer. More than 300 people gathered for a surprise party at the temple, held a day before her grandson's bar mitzvah.
Two weeks ago, Mrs. Rosenblatt visited her husband of 56 years for the last time, an oxygen tank trailing behind her. This time, she gave him permission to die.
"That was her final gift," her daughter said.
Bill Rosenblatt remains at Manor Care Health Services. Mrs. Rosenblatt entered Mease Countryside Hospital two days after that visit, where she died March 4.
She was 74.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]