When and where were you born?
I was born in Passaic, New Jersey on April 29, 1923. When Wall Street crashed in 1929, we didn’t feel it in our house because we were so poor. By the age of 12, I joined a drum and bugle corps, the only Jewish corps in the world. I learned a lot about anti-Semitism. As we marched down the street you could hear the comments. Life changed for everybody on December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. In January 1943, I left for the Navy. After boot camp, I was assigned to an aircraft carrier named the Gambier Bay, which was assigned to General Douglas MacArthur for his return to the Philippines. On October 25, 1944, our ship was sunk. I was in the water for 4 days. Thirteen-hundred men went into the water, and 400 came out. When I returned to civilian life, I married, purchased a bakery shop, which I eventually sold, and then became a salesman for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) and other companies. I was very involved in the Clifton Jewish Center in Clifton, New Jersey, helping them to raise money by starting an annual community carnival.
What is your current state of mind?
Excellent, and the reason I say that is because I’ve been taking a pill for my memory for over 45 years. It’s made up of vitamins and minerals. I like to think my biggest asset besides the clarity of mind is my humor.
What is your favorite way of spending time?
Sitting and talking with people. Sometimes I tell a joke to get it started.
Which living person do you most admire?
There are three people: my son, Stephen, and daughter Helene, and my friend, Ben Wiesel. Stephen went to the University of Boston and graduated with a degree in journalism. He was associate editor of the San Francisco Chronicle for 18 years. Helene put herself through school and has practiced Hellerwork for 28 years. Ben has integrity and clarity of mind. What I like about him is that he is a loyal friend and generous to a fault.
What is your most treasured possession?
Once again, my children because without them there would be a total void. And my good health.
When and where were you happiest?
When you go into the water, after two days you kind of give up on someone coming to get you. When you finally see a ship on day four – that’s when I was the happiest.
What is the trait you most admire in yourself?
Being upbeat, friendly, generous, and a positive thinker.
What is the trait you most admire in others?
Loyalty, friendliness, sincerity, and enthusiasm.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would get out of this wheelchair. I would give anything to be able to get up and dance the meringue or salsa.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
There are a few: being in the drum and bugle corps; being with MacArthur in the Philippines and staying alive for 4 days in the water; helping the Clifton Jewish Center get on their feet.
What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
I cry easily. And at one time I was a professional clown.
What is your motto? (words you live by or that mean a lot to you)?
There are two: “The older the fiddle, the better the tune”; and “Don’t count the years, make the years count.”
What one piece of advice would you give about healthy aging?
Have a healthy diet; stay away from dessert; eat fruit. Exercise; going to the gym can do more good for you than all the pills you can swallow. Tell a joke a day; if everything else fails, tell it again.