Young at heart: Saluting Tucson’s wise and vibrant centenarians

On Friday, May 5, at Tucson Medical Center’s Marshall Conference Center, the Pima County on Aging and TMC hosted their 30th annual Salute to Centenarians. Held to coincide with Older Americans Month, the event celebrates our community’s elders aged 99 and older. There were 43 such senior citizens in attendance with a total of 109 centenarians identified in Pima County. The program included speakers, a video presentation from Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, a slide show presentation of centenarians, lunch, entertainment and a dessert reception. This year’s theme was “Age Out Loud” and the theme question, “What do you do to stay young at heart?”

Here are the biographies and answers from three of these distinguished elders:

Julia A. Newman

Born in Aurora, Ill., to a Jewish mother from Budapest, Hungary, Julia A. Newman, 99, is a first-generation American. She has one son, two daughters, five grandchildren (one deceased) and four great-grandchildren. Julia always loved to get out of the house and be around people, especially family. She’s an armchair coach, giving moral support to her basketball, football and baseball teams, especially the University of Arizona and Phoenix Suns. Her entertainment includes going to the Desert Diamond Casino and winning. She loves helping people and volunteered at University Medical Center in the neonatal intensive care unit as a cuddler until age 97. She assisted at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum in downtown Tucson and still attends railroad functions and National Association of Retired Veteran Employee luncheons. Julia was a driver for Mobile Meals for 37 years and then co-piloted with her daughter Sheila Govern. She also enjoyed volunteering at Casa Maria Soup Kitchen, making lunches and delivering food to the homeless. Speaking of nourishment, from 1981 to 1997, she and her late husband, Don, raised and canned vegetables in the summers in Otway, Ohio. Until age 97, Julia was known for crocheting Christmas angels and snowflakes for everyone she knew. Her theme answer: Have a goal each day and try to do it!

Alan Winner and great-granddaughter Silviana Russo at her 2013 Cornell University graduation

Born in Baltimore, Md., Alan Winner has five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Alan is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel. He served in World War II in England, France, Belgium and Germany. He was recalled for the Korean War, stationed as far north as Thule, Greenland, to as far south as the Panama Canal. Alan and his wife, Sylvia, were highlighted on KVOA News 4 Tucson last Memorial Day. They sold poppies outside a local Safeway grocery store to raise money for local veterans, an act they have been performing for the past nine years. The couple has also fundraised on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans Tucson Friedman-Paul Post 201. “Service to one’s country never ends,” he says. On March 26, Alan and Sylvia had a huge celebration at the Radisson, combining their 70th anniversary with an early 100th birthday party. The couple danced to the Anniversary Waltz in front of their approximately 130 guests. Alan takes no medications and attributes his longevity to having never smoked.

Yeta Weston with a recent copy of The New York Times and one from 1917

At age 101, this was Yeta B. Weston’s third year at this event. In 2015, P.S. chronicled Yeta’s life, from her beginnings in Brooklyn, N.Y., through working with her husband, Aaron, in his family medicine practice on Long Island, to serving as a lay “rebbitzen” at Beth Shalom Temple Center in Green Valley, where she and Aaron moved in 1998. One of her three daughters, Pam Weston, accompanied her to this year’s celebration. Yeta enjoys attending this event surrounded by her contemporaries and being recognized with this distinguished group of senior citizens. Her theme answer: Have positive thinking, family that provides courage and confidence, and keep busy physically and mentally.

Time to share

It’s hard to believe that another September through May has passed. Enjoy your summer activities and keep me posted. The September P.S. column (in the Rosh Hashanah issue) always covers Israel summer travel. So keep me posted at the Post – 319-1112. L’shalom.