His movie-business prowess was rarely mentioned, but the crowd was full of people who knew all about it
Tom Sherak, the longtime Hollywood executive and former Academy president who died Tuesday almost 13 years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, was eulogized on Thursday as a man whose accomplishments in the movie industry were overshadowed by his humanitarian efforts and especially his family life.
“He was an executive, a philanthropist, a community leader and a mover and shaker of the first order – but as a man of goodness, he stood even taller,” said Rabbi Uri Herscher, one of several speakers who gave emotional talks to a crowd of more than 1,000 mourners that included Sherak's friends and admirers at Hollywood studios, the Academy, his many charities and the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 90-minute service was held at the Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, followed by Sherak's burial at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Simi Valley.
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The picture of Sherak that emerged from speeches by two rabbis and four family members was one of a man who always thought of others first, a man who was relentless in doing favors that ranged from giving away his Dodger Stadium parking pass to helping a friend get a quicker doctor's appointment, and a man whose motto when it came to his extensive charity work was “give until it really feels good.”
His accomplishments in the movie business were rarely mentioned, but the crowd was full of people who knew all about them. Numerous past and present executives attended from 20th Century Fox, where Sherak spent 17 years and rose to chairman of the Domestic Film Group. Other studios were well-represented as well, and filmmakers in attendance included producers Bill Mechanic and Larry Gordon and directors Phil Alden Robinson and Brett Ratner, who Sherak hired to produce the Oscars in 2011.
Current Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs led a large AMPAS contingent that also included past presidents Hawk Koch, Sid Ganis and Bob Rehme.
At the emotional service, those who didn't already know the details of Sherak's life could have learned that he numbered his grandchildren one-through-10, not because he couldn't remember their names, but because he was proud of having so many … that he carried toys and movie souvenirs in his briefcase in case he ran into any kids who might want them … that he loved to dunk “absolutely everything” in his coffee … and that on May 22, 1967, a 22-year-old Sherak told his mother, “I just met the girl I'm going to marry” after after a first, blind date with the woman he would wed six months later and stay married to for the next 46 years.
That bond between Tom and Madeleine Sherak was a central theme of the service, culminating in a lovely speech by Madeleine. Before that, Sherak's daughters Melissa and Barbara spoke, as did his daughter-in-law, Ginger Sherak.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Fulfillment Fund, the Sherak Family Foundation or the MS Hope Foundation, which will be renamed the Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation in honor of its founder.