Wherever jazz musicians played in South Florida, Flo Eisenberg was there to listen.
And right next to the vibrant red-head at clubs and concerts: Al Kanovsky, once her husband, long estranged, then reunited.
“If there were 30 days in a month, we were out 28 of them,’’ said Kanovsky, of Hallandale Beach. “Flo always said: Life is not a dress rehearsal.’ We took every moment out of every day.’’
Born Florence Jacqueline Schissler on Feb. 24, 1936, Eisenberg died Sept. 27 in her native New York. Kanovsky said she’d recently undergone successful surgery there to remove a lung tumor, but suffered complications.
She was 76.
Regulars at live-music venues like the Van Dyke on Miami Beach, Tobacco Road in Miami, and Blue Jean Blues in Fort Lauderdale, as well as at Gold Coast Jazz Society functions, the couple were “iconic figures in the jazz audience in South Florida,’’ said attorney Rick Katz, a founder of the non-profit Miami Jazz Cooperative, which promotes jazz education and performance. “We’re so used to seeing them at virtually every jazz event. Nobody appreciates that music more than they do.’’
They befriended musicians, said Katz, and had “a great appreciation for how hard they work at their art.’’
“They were pillars of the jazz community, the greatest support system, and made us feel like what we were doing was important,’’ added vocalist Wendy Pedersen. “Every musician would immediately go up to their table, and between sets we’d sit and listen to the stories about New York...They seemed to have so much insight into the music.’’
Eisenberg grew up in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and as a young woman worked for the attorneys who handled the great songwriting team of Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip’’ Harburg.
“That sparked her interest in music,’’ said Kanovsky, a Miami Jazz Cooperative blogger who met his future wife at a Catskill Mountains resort in 1956. They married six months later.
“Part of our honeymoon was a night at nightclub in New York where we heard [jazz greats] Count Basie, Joe Williams and Lambert, Hendicks and Ross,’’ Kanovsky recalled.
Her mother “always loved jazz,’’ said daughter Melissa Spiesman, of Stamford, Conn. “She listened to all kinds of music at home.’’
Eisenberg worked for menswear designers in New York’s garment district, and for the past 25 years, as an administrator for ArchCare, the Archdiocese of New York’s non-profit healthcare system.
After she came to South Florida five years ago with Kanovsky, a retired auctioneer, she continued to organize gala events for ArchCare.
She had a natural warmth, Kanovsky said, and remembered everyone’s name.
“She just had a unique power to make everybody feel like they were the most important person in the world,’’ their daughter added.
Eisenberg and Kanovsky divorced in 1980, and had little contact for 25 years. At family events, “they sat us on opposite sides of the room, as far away from each other as possible,’’ Kanovsky said.
Both remarried, Florence to Leo Eisenberg, whose name she kept. After he died, she and Kanovsky, also widowed, got back together.
“They were so much in love,’’ said Wendy Pedersen. “They were Flo-and-Al, like one person.’’
In addition to her daughter and Kanovsky, Eisenberg is survived by a son, Jonathan Kanovsky, and a sister, Helene Morris, both of New York.
Loved ones and members of the South Florida jazz community plan to celebrate Eisenberg’s life from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at Blue Jean Blues, 3320 NE 33rd St., Fort Lauderdale.