A celebration of the ages

  • Samuel Kaplan enjoys the festivities. MELISSA KOMAR / FOR THE TIMES

  • Dr. Fred Goldman enjoys the festivities. MELISSA KOMAR / FOR THE TIMES

  • Mayor Michael Nutter poses for a photo with Irma Macho. MELISSA KOMAR / FOR THE TIMES

May was Older Amer­ic­ans Month — an an­nu­al op­por­tun­ity to re­cog­nize seni­or cit­izens across the coun­try while con­tinu­ing to cre­ate a bet­ter qual­ity of life for the eld­erly pop­u­la­tion — and it was capped off with a cel­eb­ra­tion for the old­est res­id­ents of the com­munity.

The Klein JCC, along with com­munity vo­lun­teers and over 20 non­profit and com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tions, last Thursday af­ter­noon held its first North­east Phil­adelphia Cen­ten­ari­an Cel­eb­ra­tion.

The cel­eb­ra­tion honored 30 loc­al res­id­ents who will be 100 by year’s end or have already reached the mile­stone. Com­mit­tee mem­bers — neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents and Klein JCC em­ploy­ees — sought out cen­ten­ari­ans from the 19111, 19114, 19115, 19116, 19135, 19136, 19149, 19152 and 19154 ZIP codes for the event over the last six months.

Cen­ten­ari­ans and their guests were wel­comed with a mu­sic­al present­a­tion by the loc­ally based Rus­tics string band. After every­one ar­rived, the day’s fest­iv­it­ies of­fi­cially kicked off with a per­form­ance by preschool-aged chil­dren from Lassin Early Learn­ing Cen­ter, loc­ated at 10800 Jam­is­on Ave. Cen­ten­ari­ans listened and watched in de­light as the mini-mu­si­cians sang along to Louis Arm­strong’s What a Won­der­ful World.

Fol­low­ing the per­form­ance, sev­er­al dig­nit­ar­ies shared re­marks.

“I love these par­tic­u­lar events,” said May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter. “I’m a huge fan of our more seni­or Phil­adelphi­ans and all that they share and all that they bring to the qual­ity of life here in Phil­adelphia … The city is a bet­ter place be­cause of the things you’ve done, be­cause you are here and be­cause you are act­ive and en­gaged in the com­munity.”

Phil­adelphia has hos­ted an an­nu­al, city­wide cen­ten­ari­an lunch­eon cel­eb­ra­tion for the last 14 years. Raechel Ham­mer, vice pres­id­ent of de­vel­op­ment and com­pli­ance at Klein JCC and one of the event’s main or­gan­izers, ad­dressed the reas­on­ing be­hind hold­ing a smal­ler cel­eb­ra­tion in the North­east.

“The city has a city­wide cel­eb­ra­tion, but we found be­cause each neigh­bor­hood and each com­munity has such a dis­tinct­ive fla­vor to it, we wanted to hon­or those people who were liv­ing in North­east with a North­east Phil­adelphia cel­eb­ra­tion in ad­di­tion to what the city did,” Ham­mer said.

Cel­eb­rat­ing the cen­ten­ari­ans in the loc­al com­munit­ies also was sig­ni­fic­ant be­cause of the high pop­u­la­tion. Not only does Phil­adelphia have the second-highest seni­or pop­u­la­tion among the top 10 cit­ies in the United States, with 474 known cen­ten­ari­ans, the North­east has one of the top con­cen­tra­tions of cen­ten­ari­ans with­in the en­tire state, ac­cord­ing to Nut­ter.

After his re­marks, Nut­ter posed for pic­tures with each cen­ten­ari­an.

Oth­er speak­ers in­cluded Bri­an Duke, sec­ret­ary of the state De­part­ment of Aging; Holly Lange, pres­id­ent and CEO of the Phil­adelphia Cor­por­a­tion of Aging; and state Rep. Kev­in Boyle.

Fol­low­ing the speak­ers and a brief in­voc­a­tion, lunch was served as the cen­ten­ari­ans were en­ter­tained by the croon­ing of Stu Weitz.

Amid din­ing and singing, the honorees re­ceived cer­ti­fic­ates of re­cog­ni­tion from loc­al and state agen­cies and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the of­fices of U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, state Sen. Mike Stack, state Reps. Kev­in Boyle and Brendan Boyle, Gov. Tom Corbett, the Phil­adelphia Cor­por­a­tion for Aging, and the City of Phil­adelphia.

In ad­di­tion to cer­ti­fic­ates, the cen­ten­ari­ans re­ceived small bags of gifts and in­form­a­tion book­lets from the event’s spon­sors, in­clud­ing First Niagara, Sarah Care, Al­ways Best Care, Subaru and VRI.

The day wrapped up with dessert and a “Happy Birth­day” per­form­ance by Mar­ilyn Mon­roe (played by Holly Far­ris), se­quins dress, dia­monds and sul­try “Mr. Pres­id­ent” vo­cals in­cluded.

Samuel Ka­plan, a long-term res­id­ent of Borbe­ck Av­en­ue who will turn 100 on Ju­ly 21, thor­oughly en­joyed the day’s events.

“I didn’t know I was com­ing un­til a few days ago,” Ka­plan said, “but be­ing to­geth­er with all the won­der­ful people and listen­ing to the great mu­sic, I love it. It’s beau­ti­ful.”

Ka­plan, who has six grand­chil­dren and 16 great-grand­chil­dren, plans to con­tin­ue on with his usu­al routine when he hits the triple di­gits in Ju­ly.

“I’m go­ing to do the same thing I’ve been do­ing since I’ve re­tired,” Ka­plan said. “[Have] good health, go to the bowl­ing al­ley to watch my bud­dies bowl, and watch the sports net­work. I’m a big sports fan.”

At 108, Irma Macho was the old­est honoree present. She, too, had a sim­il­ar ex­per­i­ence.

“This is totally un­ex­pec­ted, but won­der­ful,” Macho said. “I didn’t know un­til today, but I’m glad I came.”

Dr. Fred Gold­man, a re­tired po­di­at­rist, was the old­est male honoree at 102.

The ad­di­tion­al honorees were Kath­er­ine Ap­pi­cello, Eth­el Balken, Ber­tha Cades, Martha Camp­bell, Eli­as Cheri­an, Sylvia Edels, Zelma Fin­neg­an, Mar­garet Haze, Helen How­land, Bill Kaliser, Irene Kline, Rus­sell Lein­berry, Net­tie Lesch, Ruth Mas­ter, George Miller, Bebe Miller, Mary Oliv­er, Theresa Quares­ima, Stella Re­ut­linger, Anne Shaef­fer, Mur­ray Shuster­man, Mary Simms, Rose Smith, Jac­ob Snyder, Anna Stein, Fannye Taylor and Ruth Ten­good.

While the day was cause for cel­eb­ra­tion, Ham­mer spoke about an ad­di­tion­al pur­pose of the event: rais­ing aware­ness about aging.

“Not only is it im­port­ant for us to take care of our eld­ers and make sure those people who built our fine coun­try are giv­en the re­spect they de­serve, but it’s im­port­ant that we raise aware­ness about what it means to age,” Ham­mer said. “Events like cen­ten­ari­an cel­eb­ra­tions re­mind us that older adults need the same amount of ser­vices that every­one else does. They need com­munity, they need so­cial­iz­a­tion, they need good nu­tri­tion, they need ac­cess to the ser­vices. This event sym­bol­izes the breadth and the scope of the im­port­ance of aging is­sues in our coun­try.” ••

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