Local people, places, travels and simchas – 10.14.11

Aged to perfection

Marlyne Freedman with centenarian Ruth Protas

This title describes newly minted centenarian Ruth Protas. Over Labor Day weekend, Ruth’s family and friends from near and far feted her on this milestone occasion. Official greetings from the White House congratulated her for a century of memories representing an important part of the American story.

Ruth was born on Oct. 5, 1911 in Poland; her family came to America in 1920 to escape the pogroms. Now a widow, and blind for more than 35 years, Ruth moved to Tucson in 2003 to be near her former daughter-in-law Marlyne Freedman.

Our proud great-grandmother keeps her mind alert and her sense of humor sharp, and walks a mile a day. Her interests include plays, poetry and books on tape, dancing, knitting, current events, Hadassah, Congregation M’Kor Hayim, and participating in the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure. Centennial party guests were treated to a poster displaying Ruth’s accolades — she’s been highlighted in publications from the Arizona Jewish Post to the Arizona Daily Wildcat. Ruth was honored at Tucson Medical Center’s 24th annual Salute to Centenarians, where they homed in on her longevity, dancing skills and fashion sense. “I’d rather dance than eat” was her quote in an Arizona Daily Star article about a dance at Atria Campana del Rio, where she lives. In summer 2010, on KGUN’s Morning Blend, Ruth spoke as a former Interfaith Community Services volunteer. In December 2008, Ruth was especially proud to be chosen by StoryCorps and interviewed for the taping by her grandson Brandon Protas and his wife, Stacey Forsyth.

Continued health and happiness to our “three-digit” birthday girl!

 Golden celebration

Golden anniversary celebrants Jacques and Vivien Gerstenfeld

On Sept. 3, Jacques and Vivien Gerstenfeld celebrated their 50th anniversary at Congregation Bet Shalom. In their honor, their friend Rabbi Sandy Seltzer delivered a thought

provoking d’var Torah (commentary) on the weekly parsha (portion), Shoftim (Judges) in Deuteronomy 16: 18-20. It contains the words, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” The rabbi enumerated the many reasons this portion is noteworthy, concluding that this special anniversary for this just, community-minded couple was yet one more reason for the parsha’s importance. The rabbi called the chassan (groom) and kallah (bride) to the bimah and had each repeat the phrase, Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li. (“I am my beloved’s] and my beloved is mine.”) It was a poignant moment for the couple and congregation alike.

The beautiful service was followed by a kiddish/luncheon for these special Tucsonans. Mazel tov!

 Melanoma Walk ’11

Bonnie Sedlmayr-Emerson at Melanoma Walk ’11

When the first Walk Against Melanoma was held in October 2009, Bonnie Sedlmayr-Emerson formed a team, Made in the Shade, with the intent of educating friends and family about the deadly skin cancer. She had been diagnosed almost five years before when her friend and hairdresser, Sharon Walton, noticed a new and unusual spot on her scalp. Two surgeries, a year of challenging treatments, and countless specialist appointments and scans later, Bonnie felt she was almost “out of the woods.” Bonnie, husband Randy Emerson, and son and daughter-in-law Jordan and Miriam Emerson were joined that year by 25 friends and many canine walkers to raise awareness and funds for the Tucson-based Skin Cancer Institute. Just weeks after that walk, new scans showed activity in a lung and surgery confirmed stage IV metastatic melanoma. Bonnie is continuing aggressive treatments at the Arizona Cancer Center.

Bonnie feels fortunate for the love of her CHAI Circle support group, a collaborative program of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Women’s Philanthropy and Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona. She is also grateful for a community full of friends (including Jan Wezelman and David Bartlett, who deliver a homemade challah every Shabbat) whose support, prayers and hope have been a source of strength.

Melanoma Walk ’11, the second such event, was held on Oct. 1 at the Arizona Cancer Center. Bonnie’s Made in the Shade team fielded about 50 walkers and raised over $6,000 for the cause. They walked in support of melanoma research, patient care, outreach and education, highlighting the importance of frequent skin screenings, consistent use of sunscreen and other types of sun protection and early detection. It is no secret that Southern Arizona has among the highest skin cancer rates in the world.

To help in the crusade against melanoma, knowing that all donations stay in Arizona, visit fightmelanomatoday.org.

 Octogenarians making a difference

Crossing Guard of the Year Merrill Broad

Phyllis and Merrill Broad and Shiffy and Bob Cohen don’t need a Make a Difference Day to show their stripes. The couples have much in common. In the past,

Bob Cohen in his garden at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona

these longtime Tucsonans have been recognized for service to their synagogue, Congregation Anshei Israel, and our Tucson community, promoting Jewish education and continuity. Both couples married in 1951 — the Broads in July and the Cohens in January, and each celebrated their 60th wedding anniversaries in shul and with family and friends over their respective “diamond” anniversary weekends.

More recently, Merrill has gone “back to school” — literally. Just as “the mailman delivers the mail come rain or shine,” so is Merrill out on the corner of Chantilly Drive and 5th Street as a crossing guard for Tucson Unified School District’s Sewell Elementary School. In May, he was honored as AAA Arizona’s Crossing Guard of the Year for Pima County, in recognition of his dedication, friendliness, safety and professionalism. With this title, he received a glass plaque and a $100 gift card. Our star was also recognized by the school and appeared in a local TV spot and newspaper clip.

This summer, Bob cultivated a cactus garden in front of the Federation building. He planted several varieties of cacti and is watering and maintaining them, as well as the nearby trees, to make the desert bloom. Bob has always been available where there is a need; his previous venture was as pioneer of the Jewish Community Library housed at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, which he continues to administer.

We are fortunate to have such gems in our community. May they go from strength to strength.

Time to share

Keep me posted — 319-1112. L’shalom.