Lost Love and Lady Liberty: Foundation Helps Seniors' Wishes Come True

Vet sees Ellis Island as another visits England to say goodbye to former flame.

October 27, 2010, 6:14 AM

Oct. 28, 2010 — -- Emmanuel Herzberger became fascinated with the Statue of Liberty while in the third grade, after his schoolteacher visited and returned to tell her class about the trip.

Herzberger thought he'd get a peek during his return home from the Berlin Airlift in 1949 -- he served in the military as an aircraft instrument specialist -- but his ship sailed into New Jersey.

"I got on the bow of the ship and I said, 'Man, I'm gonna see that statue' and they turned and went into the other harbor," he told ABC News. "I didn't get to see it so I vowed that someday I'd get to come back here."

The next day he flew to Illinois, where he became a husband, a father and a teacher of 34 years.

More than 70 years later, Herzberger, 83, of Pueblo, Colo., finally got his wish this month, thanks to Jeremy Bloom's Wish of a Lifetime foundation, which helps seniors fulfill their bucket lists.

"Awesome," said Herzberger as he viewed Lady Liberty with his family. "I waited for this for many, many years."

His daughter Linda Kimball said it was nice to give back to her father, now in palliative care and suffering from stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. "We owe it all to these folks," she said of the foundation.

Jeremy Bloom knows about dreams coming true.

As a child hitting on the slopes, he dreamed of skiing in the Olympics and it happened twice. A standout on his high school and college football teams, he aspired to play in the NFL and he did as a wide receiver.

'Say Thank You to This Generation'

By the age of 28, Bloom saw that his wishes had already been granted so he turned his attention and efforts to others -- strangers more than twice his age -- in order to fulfill their dreams.

"I knew that if I ever accomplished something in sports and had a platform to make a difference, it was gonna be for seniors," he said. "There's a lot more that we can do to say thank you to this generation, to appreciate this generation. Not only for their wisdom but for paving the way for all of us."

With his grandparents as his inspiration -- his grandmother took him to karate classes and his grandfather taught him how to ski -- Bloom started the foundation in 2008. Now thanks to financial assistance from donors and corporate sponsors, he goes around fulfilling bucket lists, footing the bills for seniors with a lifelong dream.

In March, his foundation honored a group of veterans by granting them the opportunity to take an emotional journey through the World War II Memorial in the nation's capital. And when grandmother of six Lucy Gallegos, 72, wanted to jump out of an airplane -- despite a hip replacement -- Bloom took her.

"A big part of Wish of a Lifetime is meant to kind of create this cultural shift and highlight seniors and highlight their lives and all the amazing things they've done," he said.

When an 86-year-old Alzheimer's patient, known in his younger days as "Wild Bill," wanted to get back in the saddle, Bloom brought a horse to the nursing home's parking lot.

Bloom said he always came back to one wish though. "It was for a man that wanted two rugs and these are not elaborate rugs. Two normal rugs, something that you'd get at Walmart, for his feet. He had diabetes. He'd wake up in the morning [and] his feet were really cold. And I'll tell you what. The sheer joy on this man's face was absolutely remarkable."

A Wish of Love: The Search for Joyce

In September, Bloom was present as Tony Canino reunited with a long-lost love in England.

More than 60 years ago, when Canino was a soldier stationed outside of London, he fell in love with a young woman named Joyce. After three years, the order came for him to head to the Pacific. He left without saying goodbye because she was away visiting her parents.

"The love I have for this girl. I pray that every person falling in love could have just a minute, a part of that," Canino said. "It was a love affair that. ... It doesn't come to everybody."

He sent her cablegrams but the two eventually lost contact. Canino later married and started a family. His daughter Gina Kemper said that her family always knew about Joyce.

"My dad told my mom right away. She knew about it from the beginning. It was never a secret," Kemper said. "It was never a hidden feeling. We didn't know to what extent my father loved her but we always knew that she was here."

Before Canino's wife fell gravely ill and died in 2000, he said, she suggested he find Joyce. He searched on the Internet and eventually wrote to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair connected him with a woman who found Joyce and a nephew Michael. The sad news: Joyce had died, six months after his wife's death.

"To me, that was the end of my story," Canino said, but it wasn't.

His daughter Kemper said she knew that her father wanted to return to England and visit Joyce's gravesite so she nominated him for Wish of a Lifetime and his story was chosen. Bloom's foundation paid for Canino's flight to England so that he could finally say goodbye to his first love. Kemper said she was certain that her mother approved.

"She just wanted him to find her [Joyce]," Kemper said. "She would be very happy. I owe them [the foundation] a lot for doing this for my dad."

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