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100th Birthday

Edwin Pyser, 100, a veteran who was stationed in England during World War II, stands before an original English painting he acquired there. Photo courtesy Community Care Home Health Services

Edwin Pyser, of Greenlawn, a Community Care Home Health Services patient, recently achieved a milestone, turning 100 years young on Aug. 23.

Congratulatory messages poured in from near and far, including an official proclamation and certificates of recognition from the Town of Huntington, where he resides, along with an autographed photo from President Joe Biden.

One of Pyser’s most cherished gifts, however, was a blanket he received during his birthday party with family and friends. It highlights news and events from 1923, the year he was born, and harkens back to a world of 2-cent stamps, $500 automobiles and $5,000 homes.

Born in the Bronx, Pyser remembers the Great Depression and America’s entry into World War II. Just days after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces at age 18 and became a mechanic on B-17 bombers based out of the Eccles Road Airfield in Norfolk, England.

“My parents hesitated to sign the paperwork [allowing him to enlist], but they finally did,” Pyser said. His family came to understand that it would be better for him to enlist and have some say in where he would serve, than to wait and get drafted and have no say at all.

During his service in England, he met his future wife, Edith, whom he called Edie, at an off-base dance. Their courtship led to marriage in 1945.

“In fact, we got back from our honeymoon in Bournemouth [a southern English seaside resort] on May 8, V-E Day, the day the war ended in Europe,” Pyser said.

Marital bliss, however, was put on hold as he sailed back to the U.S. on the RMS Queen Elizabeth to fight the continuing war in Japan. “That’s when we heard the news, over the loudspeakers, that we dropped the atomic bomb,” he said.

Pyser was then granted a 30-day furlough and stayed with his family in East New York, Brooklyn, while his newlywed bride remained in England. Edie’s father had been killed in the war, and the street next to her home had been destroyed by bombs.

“When you’re in a war, you never know if you’re coming home tomorrow,” Pyser reflected.

Thankfully, in 1946, the couple were finally reunited and settled in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Two sons, Harvey and Larry, would follow, and Edwin supported his family by working at Pyser & Brothers, his father’s diamond-setting shop in New York City’s diamond district.

After his wife died a few years ago, Pyser agreed with his son, Larry, that he should move to Long Island to be closer to family. Larry later arranged caregiving services through Community Care Home Health Services of  Smithtown.

Even at 100 years of age, Pyser has much to look forward to. He’s about to be introduced to the newest addition to his growing family; Larry’s daughter, Danielle, recently welcomed a baby girl, Jordan.

As for his secret to a long life? Pyser paused and then declared with an impish grin, “It’s a secret, so I can’t tell you.”

Claire Baer

There are many ways to celebrate a milestone birthday. When it comes to Three Village resident Claire Baer’s 100th birthday in June, Hadassah Suffolk based in Commack has decided to mark the special occasion in a unique way.

Claire Baer

JoAnne Shapiro, president of Hadassah Suffolk, said the organization is raising funds in Baer’s honor to buy several “Bear Hugger” Patient Warming Systems for Hadassah Hospital in Israel.

Shapiro said Hadassah Suffolk has more than 3,000 members, and it has been spreading the word via postcards and social media.

“We kicked the fundraiser off last November because we wanted to give people the opportunity to recognize Claire well before her actual birthday,” she said

Shapiro added that enough money has been raised so far to purchase two warming systems. Hadassah Suffolk has raised more than $5,500 of the $6,600 goal as of June 1.

The warming system helps patients maintain their temperature before, during and after surgery, and Shapiro said they picked the piece of medical equipment due to Baer’s last name. The two hospitals in Jerusalem which will benefit from the fundraiser were built by Hadassah Medical Organization.

Shapiro described Baer as “a vastly influential leader in the Hadassah community.” The soon-to-be centenarian was president of Hadassah Suffolk from 1979 to 1982. She served on the national board from 1982 to 2003 and then went on to become president of Hadassah Suffolk’s Sea-Port chapter.

Baer’s daughter Ivy thought the fundraiser was a lovely gesture to celebrate her mother’s 100th birthday on June 18.

She said her mother, who grew up in the Bronx, became a Baer when she married her husband, Paul, in 1950. They celebrated 62 years of marriage before his passing at the age of 90.

According to their daughter, the Baers became Three Village residents when they moved to Stony Brook in 1972. Paul Baer’s job brought them to the area when he accepted a position at Stony Brook University’s dental school. Ivy Baer said the family lived in Maryland, and her father worked at the National Institutes of Health. After her dad retired from NIH, he accepted a job at SBU’s dental school, excited about the opportunity to teach at the new school. He would go on to be the founding chair of the Department of Periodontology.

“My parents really enjoyed being part of the university community,” she said. “There was just this whole group of really interesting people who came there around that time.”

She said her parents would attend the Bach festival that SBU’s Department of Music would organize, and the couple would host musicians who performed there from time to time. Always one to keep herself busy, Claire Baer had finished her college education when she lived in Maryland, and when she moved to the Three Village area, she looked for things to do, according to her daughter.

Claire Baer joined Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, a house of worship where she remains a member and, in turn, became involved with Hadassah. She started the local Sea-Port chapter of the organization, eventually becoming chapter president. When she joined the national board, Ivy Baer said her mother would travel to Manhattan to the main headquarters of Hadassah regularly.

“She’d go down to the train station at the crack of dawn several days a week, and she would take the train into the city,” Ivy Baer said.

Baer, sitting, celebrated her 99th birthday with her daughter Ivy, center standing, and granddaughters Sara Short and Leslie Rothenberg. Photos from Ivy Baer

During the 20 years she was on the national board, Claire Baer made nearly 30 trips to Israel, according to her daughter. One of the programs she worked on involved planning month-long trips to Israel for women and children.

“Sometimes people would ask her what she did, and she would say, ‘I’m a professional volunteer,’” Ivy Baer said.

The daughter said her mother enjoyed helping the organization and Israel because it was something she believed in, and she felt she was making a difference.

Shapiro said the members of Hadassah Suffolk wished they could plan a large celebration for Baer’s 100th birthday, but they will keep it low-key due to COVID-19 by having just a few members present her with a certificate to mark her 100th birthday.

“If it was ‘our old normal,’ we would have had a very large and festive luncheon in Claire’s honor, showering her with well-deserved accolades,” Shapiro said.

Ivy Baer said the entire family including grandson-in-law Daniel and great-grandson Paul plan to be with Claire to celebrate her birthday.

To donate visit tinyurl.com/clairebaerbday online or mail donation to Hadassah Metro, 300 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, NJ 07052. “Claire Baer’s 100th birthday” should be written in the check’s memo line.

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Mildred Kramer, above, celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday in Belle Terre. Photo by by Caitlin Ferrell

By Caitlin Ferrell

Mildred Kramer celebrated her centennial Monday, reaching a milestone fewer than .02 percent of Americans do.

The Belle Terre resident was born April 30, 1912, and spent her 100th birthday with several family members and friends.

Though undiagnosed, her family and friends believe she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. “She doesn’t realize what’s happening,” Kramer’s niece, Maureen Schecher, said.

Because of Kramer’s disintegrating memory, most of her early life is a mystery, though Schecher said Kramer was born in Far Rockaway and grew up in Queens. Her parents died in their 40s and Kramer was raised by her step-sister, Mary “Marnie” Flood. Kramer also had two younger sisters, Fidelis and Nora. Her three sisters passed away decades ago.

After graduating from Our Lady of Wisdom, a Catholic high school, “She started working right away,” Schecher said about her aunt.

On October 11, 1941, she married her husband Robert, who died six years ago at the age of 97. The couple met on a double date, according to family friend John Surace.

“She was with the other guy and he was with the other girl,” Surace said. “And Bob leaned over to the guy and said, ‘I’m goin’ to take her.’”

Mildred Kramer is all smiles with her late husband Robert. Photo from Maureen Schecher
Mildred Kramer is all smiles with her late husband Robert. Photo from Maureen Schecher

The couple moved to a small apartment in Hempstead. Robert Kramer worked as an engineer for Republic Aviation Corp. and Mildred Kramer worked as a secretary to the Supreme Court in Nassau County.

“The biggest part of her life was her marriage to my uncle and her career at the courthouse,” Schecher said. Colleagues called her the “walking encyclopedia” for her vast knowledge.

Friends describe Mildred Kramer as smart and serious, happy and loving.

Schecher said that at the age of 58, her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and was told she would only have five years to live. She retired soon after, and the Kramers moved from Freeport to Belle Terre.

“She thought it was time to go and start a new life,” Schecher said.

Nancy Henry, a longtime neighbor, recalled meeting the Kramers more than 30 years ago, when they lived around the corner. “She was a beautiful woman,” Henry said. “She still is, for a 100-year-old woman.”

Mildred Kramer and Henry began playing weekly games of Mahjong. “There were ten of us who played,” Henry said. Kramer played Mahjong while her husband golfed.

The couple also owned a boat and would go on day trips. Robert Kramer would fish.

When he reached his 80s, arthritis hit his joints. At the same time, his wife’s eyesight began to worsen. Henry said that Robert Kramer would drive her to the grocery store and wait while she did the shopping. He also took her to the beauty parlor every week to get her hair done.

“They were just such nice people,” Henry said.

Mildred Kramer still has her hair done every week and gets a manicure every two weeks. She has a bit of ice cream every night as well as a little John Begg scotch – continuing a tradition from her marriage.

“I think if she knew what was going on, she’d be amazed that she did it,” Schecher said. The centenarian has stayed in the same house she shared with her husband, with a live-in nurse, Cherry.

Friends visited Monday to celebrate Kramer’s 100th birthday. They brought cards and balloons, squeezed her hands and told her how extraordinary it all was. A card from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sat on the table next to cards and flowers from friends and family. Schecher served ice cream cake on 100th birthday plates. She had to order the plates online because no party store had them in stock. The party didn’t last long, as the guest of honor grew tired and needed to lie down for a nap.

“She’s very comfortable, she’s in her own home,” Henry said. “She was always very good with all the people she knew. She was very friendly, very helpful, she was thought of in a very fond way.”