Bush brightened and they chatted briefly about their grandkids.
Sidney David Aronchick, a one-time restaurateur, an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II and a devoted family patriarch, died Tuesday. He was 98 and was living at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life in North Wales.
He got to meet Gorbachev and Bush through the auspices of his prominent son, Mark Aronchick, one-time city solicitor and former chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Mark was so proud of his father, he took him nearly everywhere he went. Sidney got to shake hands with Bill Clinton; George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush; Al Gore; Nancy Pelosi; Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee; and other movers and shakers.
Sidney was duly impressed, but they were, after all, just folks.
It's not easy to define a man like Sidney Aronchick. You could ask the 16-year-old son of a nurse at the Abramson Center who used to come to visit Sidney.
They would watch TV together, and the boy might have summed up Sidney's personality when he said, "Mr. Aronchick is a cool guy."
"Sid was a wondrous human being, upbeat and outgoing and always full of jokes," said Jill Porter, a retired Daily News columnist and family friend.
"Wherever he was, there was a crowd of people around him, including very attractive young women."
Sidney Aronchick was born in Brooklyn, one of the eight children of Harry and Bessie Aronchick.
His father died when Sidney was in high school, and he had to drop out and work to help support the family.
In 1941, he entered the Army Air Corps and served in Ethiopia and at an air base in Lalmonirhat in Bangladesh, as a machinist. He was discharged in 1945.
"He viewed those years with enormous pride," his son said.
He married the former Lilyan Rosenthal in 1948. She died in 1999. Sidney and his late brother, Joseph, ran numerous popular restaurants in New Jersey for many years.
"He was a modest, humble, regular guy," his son said. "He lived a kind and gentle and generous life."
He also is survived by another son, Martin; two daughters, Ronnie Jersky and Gerri Stewart, and eight grandchildren.
Services: 10 a.m. today at Beth Hillel-Beth El synagogue, 1001 Remington Road, Wynnewood. Burial will be in Beth Israel Cemetery in Woodbridge, N.J.