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Hadassah Suffolk

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.