Thankfully, there's still Uncle Lou, a 91-year-old Peskin in-law with a walker, wire-rimmed glasses, sharp-as-a-knife memory and a storytelling manner dripping with sincerity.
From the Abington retirement home where he has made himself the man in charge of lifting spirits, this oldest surviving family member is thrilled to finally lavish the younger set with stories of streetcars, Peskin-packed city blocks and $50 weddings.
But really, Lou Roth is much more than a powerful mind. He is one of those rare people who become no one's enemy, who weather family spats and who become the elders with the charisma and clout to draw the youngest generations out of deep orbit and back to their core.
"He's like the elder statesman," said nephew Robert Peskin, 54, of Washington, the self-assigned family archivist who has prepared a 116-name family tree for Sunday's event and is compiling a written history. "He carries with him so much of the oral tradition."
"Lou is a favorite of everybody," said niece Joan Peskin, 73, of Wynnewood, a reunion organizer. "He always had a marvelous, loving spirit that just enthralled everybody."
"He's a survivor - a very positive thinker, and he makes the best of life," said daughter Rhoda London, 61, of Langhorne. "There's a Jewish expression, 'L'Chaim,' which means 'to life.' That's my father. He believes in life."
The Peskins are attempting what many think about - but few actually do: They are etching fleeting memories onto paper before time turns them into myths.
In addition to putting 54 people into one room, reunion leaders are compiling a family history, starting when Abraham and Minnie immigrated during the Industrial Revolution.
It is a pursuit brimming with promise but, as the hunt has shown, fraught, too, with disappointments.
Only one of the nine Peskovitz children born to Abraham and Minnie is still alive - Ethel - and she is unable to attend the reunion. Her spouse is ill.
That leaves a slew of first cousins and Lou, who married Ethel's older sister, Susan, near the start of World War II.
Early pages of the family tale are filling in.
Abraham Peskovitz was a carpenter. His brother was killed in an anti-Semitic pogrom. Presumably, this drove Abraham and Minnie to the United States between 1900 and 1905.
They came from Talka, southeast of Minsk - a fact that just landed in Robert Peskin's lap a few weeks ago. "Another cousin sent it to me in a map from [the Internet site] MapQuest, of all things!"
For years, Abraham, his wife and their nine children lived under one roof in South Philadelphia. In 1919, Abraham became a naturalized citizen.
But three years later, with their oldest son, Sam, married, the family saga turned tragic.
Minnie Peskin - perhaps overwhelmed by poverty and caregiving pressures - hanged herself inside the two-bedroom family rowhouse near Fifth and Tasker Streets.
"I just learned that a week ago from one of the cousins," Robert Peskin said.
No one, it turns out, knows much about Minnie's death, said Joan Peskin, whose husband, Lloyd, is a son of the late Sam Peskin.
"What [Minnie] did before she died was prepare a lot of food," Joan Peskin said. "And she told my mother-in-law to name her child after her. That's what they think might have been a clue."
More bad news, according to Uncle Lou, came as the Roaring Twenties bled into the Great Depression.
Many of the siblings were sent to live with relatives because Abraham could not care for them alone.
"I didn't know that," said Robert Peskin, a transportation engineer whose father, David, died when Robert was just 23.
By the 1930s, most of the siblings reunited in a shared house in the city's Oak Lane section. For reasons not yet clear, the men shortened their last name.
Around this same time, Lou was living in Strawberry Mansion - then a largely Jewish neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Earlier, he had lost his mother to the flu. Only 8, Lou was the oldest of three children.
His father, Hyman, a Russian Jew, struggled to keep the family intact. His second wife "was cold" to the children, Lou said. But his third wife, Ruth, was "better than a mother," he said.
Lou met Sue at a Saturday night mixer. The girl on one side of him declined Lou's invitation to dance. The girl on the other side - Sue - accepted.
Soon after the courtship began, Abraham Peskovitz died of colon cancer.
Lou and Sue married in 1939, had two daughters and stayed together until 1991, when Sue died.
"That's a borrowed gown," Lou said, pointing to a wedding picture on the wall of his room at the Sunrise retirement community. "My wife didn't have a penny to her name. My wedding took place in her house in Oak Lane. It was a $50 wedding. I couldn't even invite my friends."
But there was plenty of joy.
In the 1950s, six of the nine Peskin siblings moved into four houses on three adjoining blocks of Greeby Street in the city's Oxford Circle section.
For each of the next 30 years, they and their young families would host what the Jewish family teasingly referred to as "Christmas" parties. Every single relative would show up.
The tradition ended by 1970, and the family bonds weakened, with the younger generation moving in new directions.
The family speaks fondly of old times. But Lou especially marvels at stories of years gone by as though they are Nobel Prize-winning novels simply waiting to be written.
The retired salesman - who once sold Christmas tinsel on curbside card tables on South Street to earn extra money for his family - launched a monthly newsletter at the assisted-living facility two years ago.
"We don't write bad news - we only write good news," he said, pointing to a four-page draft in need of proofreading. "That's why it's called 'The Good News Bulletin.'"
His goal is to keep his mind in shape - but also to tell stories before they are forgotten.
"There's a woman who was in the Holocaust who was taken by the Nazis; a man who had an apartment house in New York. . . There are so many stories here, there's no end," he said.
Robert Peskin hears Uncle Lou's wisdom - and he hears the clock ticking.
"This is a precious opportunity, in many ways," he said. "Our personal heritage - it is a precious thing. And it is elusive."
Contact staff writer Maria Panaritis at 215-702-7805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.