‘100 for 100’: Jewish Congregation of Marco Island celebrates a century of Abe Brown
Few of us, statistically, will live to reach the age of 100. Fewer still will do it with the vitality, the twinkle in their eye, and the number of friends ready to help celebrate as did Abraham “Abe” Brown.
Sunday evening, about five score of revelers – “100 for 100,” said principal party organizer Joyce Zeldin – gathered at the sanctuary of the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island (JCMI) to throw a birthday party for the centenarian.
One of the downsides of living to a ripe old age is that you have generally outlived all your friends and contemporaries, but Brown’s outpouring of well-wishers clearly demonstrated he had never lost the ability to make new friends. A steady stream of attendees came up to Abe’s table at JCMI to add their congratulations to him and his wife Jean, a relative youngster at 93.
The two have been married for 72 years, tying the knot in 1946 after Abe returned from World War II military service in Europe, met a beautiful, sophisticated Canadian girl from Montreal, and somehow, even as what family members described as a country bumpkin from Enosberg Falls, Vermont, persuaded her to marry him.
“Marrying my mother was one of the smartest things my father ever did. Jean made him complete,” said David Brown, the youngest of Abe and Jean’s four children, who came down for the festivities.
Another visiting family member, Hannah Levitz, their oldest granddaughter, said that, with no father in her life, her grandfather took on that role, and that growing up with no biological father was never an issue, but actually a blessing. Among other lessons, including tennis and skiing, Abe taught her, she said, “the value of a dollar,” and Hannah’s own young daughter held one up to show the lesson continues through the generations.
In all, the Abe and Jean have four children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Abe Brown built businesses selling products including auto tires and appliances, and after retiring went on to start another in the field of assisted living.
Along with the testimonials in person, the gathering watched a video of five friends, and apparently competitors of Abe’s, speaking his praises. Time and again, his competitiveness in everything he undertook was mentioned. The party was originally put together by members of the duplicate bridge club where Abe, a “more than life master,” “still plays a fine game of bridge, said Roberta Frank and Ellie Goodrich. Additional tributes on the screen came from Art Frank, Sam Frohlich, Vic Poppio, and Stan Zeldin.
Rabbi Mark Gross and cantorial soloist Hari Jacobsen led the singing of “Happy 100th Birthday” after a cake was wheeled out. Abe blew out the candles with ease and a copious blast of air, although thankfully there were not actually 100 candles to deal with, which might have set off the smoke detectors.
The gathering also participated in a singalong with lyrics by Joyce Zeldin set to tunes including “Frere Jacques” and “If You Knew Susie.”
After the other speakers, Abe was called on to say a few words. He strode to the microphone in the front of the room, but then, for once, seemed at a loss for many words.
“I’m a little overwhelmed, seeing all these old friends and new friends,” said Brown. “I want to thank you all.”