Tom Sherak probably has a couple of words of advice for God about how he could improve things in heaven, Rabbi Uri Herscher told a packed Temple Aliyah today during Sherak’s memorial service. “And God should listen,” Sherak’s longtime friend added to hearty laughter from the more than 1,000 mourners attending the funeral in Woodland Hills, CA. The laughter was welcomed in a moving morning funeral that saw his widow Madeline, daughters Melissa and Barbara, and daughter-in-law Ginger speak of the loss of the man they loved so deeply. Madeline Sherak brought many of her husband’s fellow Hollywood power players and family friends to tears as she spoke of the life she and the former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president built from their meeting on a blind date in 1967 to his death Tuesday. She said how at peace Sherak was in his final days and how he told her he was “happy.”
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Sherak’s children memorialized their father, sharing personal moments and remembrances — from how he, as “Papa,” interacted with his 10 grandchildren and the moments of laughter and love between them all. He would say, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” and keep repeating until the little one said, “I know Papa.” All of them spoke about the unconditional love Tom and Madeline had for each other.
Madeline Sherak also spoke about how the couple’s numbers were 22 and 18: They met on the 22nd of the month and were married on the 22nd when Tom was 22 years old and she was 18. Madeline said Tom told his parents that he knew he was going to marry her after their first date. Madeleine’s tears came as she said she would miss having his arms wrapped around her.
Herscher, the founder of LA’s Skirball Center who did not oversee the service but rather spoke as Sherak’s longtime friend, talked about how Sherak helped him when he was having a hip problem, finding him a doctor. When they couldn’t schedule him for a long while, Herscher said, “I’m OK with that, but I don’t think Tom Sherak would be comfortable with that.” Once the scheduler heard Sherak’s name, the doors opened wide and Herscher was able to see the doctor the next day. The rabbi spoke of his friend as a caring man and one who loved to help others, and noted how he was touched by how much Sherek loved and honored his own parents. When you asked Tom about his life, he said, he always began speaking not about himself but about his parents.
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From the front rows at the temple to near the back where we sat, the sentiment was the same. “Tom was a great guy, always there when you needed him,” one attendee said. “He will be greatly missed.” As a testament to how loved Sherak was among the industry to which he gave so much in so many ways over the years, many from the executive suites were there today: Disney’s Alan Horn, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Sony’s Amy Pascal, current AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, former Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook, and Despicable Me producer Chris Meledandri were among those offering their condolences. Also there were Warner Bros’ Barry Meyer, producer Joe Roth, Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey, director Brett Ratner, actors Henry Winkler and Ron Perlman, Hawk Koch, and TriStar Chairman Tom Rothman, MGM chairman Gary Barber, to name a few.
As reported, the family asks that in lieu of flowers people donate to one of Sherak’s favorite charities, such as the Sherak Family Foundation, the Fulfillment Fund, or the nonprofit MS Hope Foundation that has been renamed the Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation in his honor.
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