Their relationship resembled a classic love story that ended on April 16, when Lester and Lillian Shindler died within hours of each other.
They were high school sweethearts, and they were inseparable — even after 72 years of marriage. They worked together for decades at their well-known store, Brody’s Custom Printing and Camp Supplies, and they shared a passion for the movies and live theater. Their relationship resembled a classic love story that ended on April 16, when Lester and Lillian Shindler died within hours of each other.
Lester, 92, was recovering from hip surgery in a nursing home where he died due to complications from COVID-19. Lillian, 91, had dementia, and her health had been declining, especially since her husband’s hospitalization. It was one of the few times this Farmington Hills couple had been separated. Family members said she died of a broken heart.
The blessing in all of this is the fact that neither spouse had to be informed of the other’s passing, said granddaughter Jeannie Gnesin.
Marc Shindler, who now owns Brody’s in West Bloomfield and worked alongside his parents for decades, added: “My father always used say, ‘Let’s go Lilah (a nickname he gave his bride). Let’s go. Let’s go to the movies. Let’s go to dinner.’ I imagine that when he died, he came to my mother and said, ‘Let’s go, Lilah,’ and they went together.”
Lester Shindler purchased the store from founders Gerald and Fay Brody in 1973 and turned it into what family members call a unique retail experience. The tumult and chaos of the store, they said, continues to separate Brody’s from other businesses.
Lester never liked phone orders. He wanted customers to come into the store, and he also insisted that his sales staff followed around every customer to encourage a sale. He was happiest when people left with more than what they intended to buy. He especially loved when the store was packed with people getting ready to send their kids to summer camp.
“Nothing gave him more joy than selling,” Gnesin said. “Lil, she was the quiet, behind-the-scenes person that nobody knew.” Family members remember her for her gentle kindness, patience, meticulous handwriting and the lunches she packed daily for her husband, son and grandchildren on the days they worked in the store.
Son Marc recalled an instance when a customer came in for a package of underwear and walked out with underwear and a tuxedo. “My dad didn’t push, he suggested, and he did this thousands of times.”
Together the Shindlers’ lives revolved around the store. When they weren’t working, they enjoyed spending time with family. They especially liked going to the movies and the theater. For decades, the couple had been season ticket holders at the Fisher Theatre, where they enjoyed sitting in their front-row center seats. Lester attended a play as recently as last month and had already purchased tickets for next season.
“A lot of people knew my father,” Marc said. “He would walk down the aisle at the Fisher and multiple people would shout out, ‘Hi, Mr. Brody!’”
The Shindlers are survived by their son Marc (Shelley) Shindler and daughter Shara (William) Stewart, grandchildren Jennie (Adam) Gnesin, Julie (Marc) Cohen, Adam (Jessica) Shindler, Zach (Cassy) Stewart and Alana (Darren) Suiter, and great-grandchildren Ellery and Parker Gnesin, Dean, Grace and Anna Cohen, Noah, Liam, and Peyton Steward, and Jacob and Ava Suiter.
Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported that the Shindlers founded Brody’s. They purchased the store in 1973 from founders Gerald and Fay Brody. This version and the headline have been corrected.