Mrs. Dorothy Kellner celebrated a landmark birthday at the Boulevard ALP, turning 100 this past Friday, July 19. Mrs. Kellner stood behind one of three huge birthday cakes from Aron’s Kissena Farms that said “100” on them.
State Senator Toby Stavisky presented her with a proclamation from the State of New York. “Your family keeps you young. You chose the hottest day for a birthday,” Senator Stavisky quipped. She also noted that Mrs. Kellner lives in her district.
Mr. Ivan Fisher, president of Boulevard ALP, wished her congratulations. “I just want you to know how happy we are for you to be amongst us,” he said.
He asked her to share her secret for reaching 100, and she replied, “Be positive. Never be negative!... I don’t know why I reached this age. God blessed me. G-d is good to me.”
Her health secret is to keep on moving and she follows a regimen of vitamins.
Howard Bruce Neufeld, Boulevard ALP’s executive director, was dressed in a lively birthday costume and hat. He commented that there are people, baruch Hashem, who are aged 105 and 107 at the Boulevard ALP. “Once you get through the first 100 years, the rest is easy.”
One of her sayings is “In life, it’s not how you start out; it’s how you end up.” She strived, and had to work hard all her life, especially since she was hearing-impaired from a very young age.
Another one of her sayings is “Use it or lose it.” You must keep moving. She walked all her life. In her early 90s, she became the chair aerobics instructor at the Bay Senior Center and was certified by the Department of Aging of the City of New York. She also walked to the senior center daily, about half a mile each way.
When asked her thoughts about important life lessons for young people today, she said the following: “Young people today are too frivolous. They don’t know the value of money. You can lose it all. They need to think about how to save and spend their money wisely.” People think they are poor nowadays, but she grew up poor and lived through the Depression.
Dorothy was born at home in Brooklyn. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States as teenagers from Minsk, then part of Russia, and met and married here. They both worked as garment workers. She lived her whole life in Brooklyn, first in Brownsville and then in Sheepshead Bay, until at the age of 95, when she moved to the Boulevard ALP in Flushing.
She remembers when the gas lights on the street were electrified. She remembers carrying up ice when the iceman came. She became hard of hearing at the age of eight due to severe ear infections as a child, and went to special schools for the deaf. She decided to go to her local high school and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn and then went on to Hunter College in Manhattan. She was the first person in her family to go to college and graduated from Hunter College in 1942 with a degree in sociology. Her goal was to be a teacher, but a hearing-impaired person could not get a teaching license at that time. She worked as a bookkeeper and became an accountant with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation through a competitive exam.
Dorothy was married to Samuel Kellner on November 6, 1943, and they were married for 65 years and had two children. Her son, Herb Kellner, married Holly Van Hecke and they live in Watertown, Wisconsin. Herb is a retired opera director and Holly is an ophthalmologist. Dorothy’s daughter, Barbara Silberman, is a retired teacher and union representative. Dorothy has four grandchildren, who are all married, and six great-grandchildren – they are all the joys of her life.
When she reached the age of 95, a social worker asked her why she was not in an assisted living facility. Her response was that she thought she would go into assisted living at age 98. The social worker pointed out that at that age she might no longer be able to enjoy it.
So, she made up her mind, and two months later she moved into Boulevard ALP.
Mrs. Kellner spoke about her experience at the Boulevard ALP. “I am very happy and content here. They will stand on their head to please you. It’s spotlessly clean and they keep me busy. When asked about her feelings about the Boulevard ALP, she responded, “I like Boulevard ALP. I have good friends and they keep me busy with activities. They have the best staff you can find. I don’t know how they find them, but they are terrific.” She not only reads her daily newspaper, she even does the puzzles. Her favorite reading materials are mysteries, and she acquires her books from the Queens Library Mail-a-Book program. She just tried out and was accepted for a talent show at the Boulevard ALP where she will be singing “My Yiddishe Mama” in English and Yiddish.
Her daughter Barbara commented about her mother: “What I admire most about my mom is her attitude. She is a positive person. She doesn’t and has never presented herself as handicapped due to her hearing loss, even now that her hearing loss is so profound. She strived in regular school among students with normal hearing and did well. She strived at work and succeeded. I admire that she has lived life well. Her glass is always full. She is positive, intelligent, funny, and wonderful to spend time with. She is up to date and has opinions on current issues. I am striving, too. One of my sayings is that ‘When I grow up, I want to be just like my mother.’ I would be proud to be more and more like her.”
Hashem should bless Mrs. Kellner and her family with continued good health and blessing.
By Susie Garber