Morris Zuckerman, WWII veteran and actor, dies at 103
A life-long military man, it wasn’t until he was in his 60s before Morris Zuckerman found his second calling: acting.
He appeared in the movies “Scarface’’ and “The Mean Season,’’ as well as in commercials and on TV shows.
“He was a strong military man,” said his daughter Yvette Kintz. “But acting gave him a purpose, it made him young-minded.”
Zuckerman died Dec. 7 at his home in Coral Gables. He was 103.
He was born in New Jersey to Russian immigrants, but lived in Key West and Miami during the Depression. He wanted to be a dentist, but unable to afford college tuition, got a job selling shoes.
It was at a Halloween party in 1941 that he met Lillian Stein, the love of his life. But with the United States on the cusp of war and afraid of leaving her a war widow, Zuckerman didn’t propose marriage.
Zuckerman enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and was placed in the Signal Corps as a radio operator. His team was responsible for flying transport planes over the Himalayas loaded with gasoline and supplies for the Chinese Army and U.S. fighter planes. While aboard, he had to clean off all the condensation from the radio equipment, his handgun and his watch. He was responsible for reporting their position and signaling weather conditions every 20 minutes, so the planes following them would know what to expect. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
Having survived the war, he proposed to Lillian and the couple married in 1945.
Zuckerman remained in the U.S. Army for 22 years. He flew in the Berlin Airlift and provided emergency supplies for families in Germany. He flew judges to the Nuremberg trials and eventually stayed with the Air Transport command. By the time he retired he was a master sergeant.
With their three children in tow, the Zuckermans were stationed in Japan, Morocco and Hawaii.
It was Hawaii where Morris Zuckerman wanted to retire in 1963, but Lillian wanted to be closer to her father.
The compromise: Miami, which was close to their family bu still offered warm weather and beaches.
All her life, Lillian had dreamed of becoming an actress. Once the family was raised and Morris was retired, she began taking acting classes. Zuckerman would driver her to classes and auditions.
During the casting calls, people started noticing the elderly couple and encouraged Zuckerman to also audition.
“It was my mom’s dream and my dad just fell into it,” said Kintz. “They made many new friends and met many young people — they didn’t want to be around older people who complained.”
For the next 20 years, the Zuckermans had roles in the movies and on TV.
Zuckerman can be seen walking down Ocean Drive in “Scarface,’’ dining at Vizcaya in “The Champ’’ and as a dead body in “The Mean Season.’’
Because he was the only older actor who had his teeth, he got a role chomping on corn in a Publix commercial.
He appeared in multiple episodes of Miami Vice and in the very first Florida Lottery commercial.
For his 100th birthday party, the family invited 150 guests to a Hawaiian/Latin party to celebrate his life. They cooked a big paella and enjoyed hula dancers.
In addition to his daughter, Zuckerman is survived by son Daniel Zuckerman. Daughter Jacki Zamrok and wife Lillian Zuckerman predeceased him.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to veterans organizations.