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On March 31, 2020, Sylvia Hertzel, a resident at the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living, turned 100. Although her family couldn’t physically be with her to celebrate due the current coronavirus visitation restrictions, they celebrated with her virtually – as did the Center’s staff and residents. It was a very special day for an extraordinary woman.
Sylvia and her husband Ralph Hertzel grew up in the same Dorchester neighborhood. It was a love story for the ages. Ralph delivered newspapers and used to throw the paper up to Sylvia’s family 2nd floor balcony. Sylvia would watch and thought he was very cute! The rest, as they say, is history. Sylvia and Ralph were married in 1943 during WW II. Sylvia followed Ralph throughout the country while he trained as a medic prior to going overseas. She waited for over a year for him to come home. One of Sylvia’s most cherished possessions is a card Ralph sent her during the war. The last sentence expressed his sentiments perfectly. He wrote, “How much longer can the war keep me from you?”

The couple moved to Sharon in 1950, where they bought a brand-new ranch house to raise their two children, Pam and Bob. In addition to running the household, Sylvia worked as a bookkeeper at her husband’s hat making business, which was located in Boston’s garment district. Leisure time was spent with friends and families at Franklin Park Field. Sylvia loved reading, painting and card games. She walked everywhere! Sylvia and Ralph loved living in Sharon and spent 53 wonderful years together until, sadly, Ralph passed away in 1996. At that time, Sylvia moved to an apartment in Sharon and lived alone until she was 98!

Bob Hertzel, Sylvia’s son, described Sylvia as an extremely loving and loyal wife and mother. Bob posted a heartfelt tribute to Sylvia on Facebook, which ended with the following words: “You made it Ma — from the year the Sox traded Ruth to the Yanks; from the year women got the right to vote, through the depression and war and the suburbs to a quiet and lovely life. Happy 100th Birthday Mom!”

A woman celebrating her 100th birthday

Sylvia Hertzel 100th Birthday Party at Brudnick Center with Activities Assistant Judy Mullen

For the past two years, Sylvia has resided at the Brudnick Center for Living in Peabody. She is beloved by both staff and residents alike. Ellen Gordon, Director of Resident Life at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, commented upon how much everyone likes being around Sylvia. “Sylvia is a role model to all of us,” said Gordon. “She shows us – every day –how to treat people respectfully, how to maintain a positive attitude by an always-present smile on her face, and how to age gracefully.” Added Ellen, “Quite simply, I adore her.”

Pam Krinsky, Sylvia’s daughter, explained that her mom has a very practical approach to life and living. When asked the secret to her longevity, Sylvia replied in her straightforward manner, “Everything in moderation.” Pam is grateful that her mom now lives at the Brudnick Center, partly because of the close proximity to her home in Lynnfield, but also because of the quality of care she is receiving at the skilled nursing residence. “Everyone at Brudnick has been absolutely marvelous,” said Pam. “The staff members are truly outstanding and are keeping in close contact with our family, especially now during this challenging time.”

Through the marvel of FaceTime, Sylvia’s children and grandchildren were able to celebrate Sylvia’s birthday and watch the Brudnick staff sing a rousing edition of “Happy Birthday.” They also presented Sylvia with a beautifully decorated cake. Sylvia, gracious as always, could be heard saying, “You didn’t have to go to all this fuss for my birthday, but I appreciate it very, very much. Thank you everyone.” Sylvia’s huge smile said it all.