A Special Day for an Extraordinary Lady


Thursday, February 7, 2008, marks the 100th birthday of my dear mother, and you can be sure that we are planning a modest, but festive and joyous celebration. Family & guests will be coming from as far away as California, Florida, Illinois, Germany & Israel.

Mom, the eldest and sole surviving member of 5 sisters, was born in Stallupoenen, East Prussia (Germany). Her father was not pleased about not having any sons.

Mom took a bookkeeper`s job in the small German town of Hoya, and it was my father, Walter Blumenthal, who was her employer! Only 2 weeks after Mom began work in Hoya, my father made a proposal of marriage to her. Mom, a bit shocked, left work in Hoya to consider the proposal, but returned soon thereafter to be married. 

Already in the early 1930`s, there was unrest in Germany, and this made for a difficult time for the Blumenthal family. Albert was born in 1932, and stones were thrown at his carriage. It was only a few years later that we found ourselves in transient and concentration camps!

Mom demonstrated great courage and strength in keeping her family alive and intact during its incarceration in the Nazi camps of Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen. Liberation for our Family occurred on April 23, 1945, when the Russian Army liberated the “death train” in which we were traveling, en-route towards the East. My mother`s beloved husband, my father, passed away from typhus just 6 weeks after our liberation, leaving Mom a 37 year old widow, weighing just over 60 pounds. 

The years of concentration camp life left Mom weak, sick with typhus, penniless, stateless, and consumed with the thought of how to possibly care for Albert, age 12, and me, age 10. However, no challenge was ever too much for Mom. After our family’s return to Holland, we all learned to speak Dutch. Mom became a masseuse.
Albert & I were placed in a Youth Aliyah Home (a children`s home) where we became reacquainted with life in its normal state, began formal schooling, and prepared to make Aliyah (emigrate) to Palestine, which became the State of Israel in 1948.

However, instead of aliyah, our diminished family of 3 emigrated to the United States, arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 23, 1948, exactly 3 years to the day of our liberation. We soon found ourselves in Peoria, Illinois, where Mom made it a priority for us to quickly learn English, and for Albert and me to do well in school. Mom worked at first as a cleaning lady for Jewish families, where the added bonus was bringing home “left over” food and “hand me down” clothing.
I recall wearing one of those beautiful dresses to synagogue on Yom Kippur in 1951, the day that Nathaniel & I met for the very first time.

Mom’s vocabulary is extensive and precise. When living in San Francisco some 20 years ago, her letters to us were so eloquently descriptive of that beautiful city on the bay that we thought she must be the publicity director for the SF Chamber of Commerce. Mom was a voracious reader - in both German and English.

Mom arrived in America with little money. By being frugal, and never living above her means, she has never, to this very day, asked for or required financial help. On the contrary, Mom has graciously helped others when ever the need arose.

There never has been a trace of bitterness in Mom, but yet, at times, a feeling expressed of having been deprived of a normal family life. She often reminisces of her courtship days in Hoya, the small German town where my parents met.

An excellent cook from childhood, Mom became a talented seamstress. To this day, she helps at our home, sewing on buttons, and even threading her own needle. She folds the laundry, dries and puts away the dishes, and makes every effort to be useful and productive. When there is something that she can no longer do, she says, “Old age is for the birds.” 

When staying with us for Shabbat (the Sabbath), she is extremely careful to be quiet so as not to disturb anyone, closing doors ever so gently. Mom carefully makes her own bed, and dresses herself neatly, and enjoys all the meals, always complimenting me by saying everything is delicious – but “please, don’t give me so much; this is more than enough.” Mom will even tear a napkin in half to economize, brushing off the “please don’t do that.” 
Mom does have a sweet tooth, and enjoys chocolate, cake and ice cream. She actually prefers her own warm and cozy apartment, keeping it spotlessly clean, with everything in its place.

No doctor’s appointments - what an incredible blessing! Just some back pain once in a while, and Mom takes no medication. Tylenol is not a medication! It has only been recently that we convinced Mom to take vitamins.

Mom has always loved art, architecture, music, and the sea and mountains, but these days, she is most fascinated with nature, especially the change of seasons. This is a woman who is modest, hardworking, industrious, caring and very wise.

We children call her a role model of role models, a true Eishet Chayil (Woman of Valor). Her 3 grandchildren and their spouses, David & Lisa, Susan & Rob, and Michael & Rachel, cherish and adore their grandmother. Mom’s 9 great-grandchildren, Arielle, Joshua, Gavriel, Dahlia, Yoav, Jordan Erica, Hunter, Ian and Kasey Rose, are in awe of their indomitable great-grandmother. 

May Mom continue to live in good health and great spirits until 120, and then may we be privileged to ask for more! 

Happy, Happy Birthday, Mom!
With much love, affection and admiration,

Photo of Mom giving a wave when introduced at a presentation of mine at Temple Beth Emeth, Mount Sinai, New York this past Novemebr. Photo taken by Jay Zuckerman