Happy 100th, Ruth Mirsky!
By Dan Guarino
Some might not recall their first birthday party. But, as celebrated at JASA’s Rockaway Park Older Adult Center on March 10, Ruth Mirsky’s 100th birthday party was surely one to remember!
Mirsky beamed an infectious smile as she came through the door of the facility located at 106-20 Shore Front Parkway and was greeted by the cheers and loud applause of some 50 friends and JASA (Jewish Association Serving the Aging) clients, staff, family and guests. Her eyes twinkled as those enthusiastic greetings kept going.
Ruth Evelyn Scheon Mirsky Merenstein, known at the center as Ruth, officially turned 100 on Wednesday, March 15. But JASA’s staff was already hard at work making last Friday’s soiree a special occasion. Flowers were arranged with care; tables were decorated with banners and balloons. A very large birthday card was brought out for all to sign. Pictures of Mirsky as a baby, as a young mother and a bride, and in her WWII service uniform, were included on a large display. Included also were sayings, loving letters from a great-grandchild, newspaper articles and even a book cover from “Code Girls- The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II,” in which Mirsky is featured.
In 1942, she signed up for the WAVES, the U.S. Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service group. There she was part of the Allies’ ultra-top-secret team dedicated to breaking Japanese enemy codes and helping bring the war to a swifter close. In 2017, author Liza Mundy came to her home several times to interview her for the book, dedicated to the stories of these unsung women.
One woman at the party noted, “I read that book. It’s amazing what those girls did. And they couldn’t talk about it!”
JASA staff decorated one wall with a very large “Happy Birthday” banner for later picture taking. They brought in a cake adorned with red strawberries and white and blue icing and golden candles, and several dozen birthday cupcakes. Each had individual signs reading “Happy 100th,” “100 & Fabulous,” and “Awesome Since 1923.”
One woman at JASA was heard saying, “It’s really something to be part of an organization that has such an esteemed member. It’s like speaking with a living legend, and you can ask her questions and learn. And to see her and her children, the love there. I’d like to be here at that age with that love.”
Indeed, Mirsky was accompanied by her son, Stuart Mirsky, daughter Debra Aluisio, her granddaughter Leah Aluisio, and aide Maia. All together, she has two children, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Daughter Debra noted, “She’s a wonderful mother. We love her very much. She’s a special, amazing lady. She loves life and that’s how she gets through.” Speaking of a celebratory dinner which Mirsky’s six-years younger “baby-sister” would attend, she said, “They are very full of life and enjoy life.”
That lively essence was on display as Mirsky donned a silver birthday tiara and gold “Birthday Queen” sash over her glittering red dress. She even got up to dance with her daughter and granddaughter, as DJ Angela LoBianco rolled out musical favorites like a medley of “You Are My Sunshine/Baby Face/You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby/You Made Me Love You,” “In the Mood.” “L-O-V-E” and a 1940’s Big Band medley.
“This is Ruth’s favorite song. Ruth requested it,” LoBianco announced, then sang a lovely rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight.”
“The one and only Ruth, ladies and gentlemen!”, she concluded.
Special guest State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato joined in, chatting and laughing with Mirsky and dancing.
“She’s a veteran. She’s a warrior. She’s a survivor,” Amato said, “I want to be like her. She’s awesome!”
Later she tweeted, “Ruth has had an amazing 100 years and I was honored to present her a Proclamation on the occasion of her 100th birthday.”
“I think we should all take a page out of “Ruth’s Wisdom-Chai,” referring to 18 of her printed principles on display. Among these were things like, “Be Good To Each Other,” “Be Kind” and “Find the Best In Life.”
On that score, Mirsky’s daughter recalled when, due to an injury, her mother was in a rehabilitation center during the Covid epidemic. “I couldn’t see her. But talking to her on the phone, she would tell me how she was cheering everybody up.” It was evident at her party and from all the genuine hugs, smiles and applause, that that spirit held through.
“I am overwhelmed,” said the birthday girl. “All the preparations! It’s all good! But I am happy to see friends and make some new ones!”
“I have always been happy. And this day has been remarkable. I am very happy. I’ve reached 100!”
“How does it feel now to be 100?” she was asked.
“I don’t really feel 100,” she said!
As she blew out all the candles on her birthday cake, all assembled cheered and wished her many, many more.
Photos by Dan Guarino.