MARCH 22, 2018 – Lou Krinsky sat in a chair in the lobby of the third floor of the Jack Satter House in Revere and stared out at the ocean. It was just after 11 a.m., and Krinsky had been up since 6. He had read the Globe, had breakfast, and finished a 30-minute workout in the building’s gym. Now, he was looking at the different colors of the waves and pondering what it meant to live to be 100.
“I never thought about it before, really. It’s a miracle that I’m here,” said Krinsky, who was born on a kitchen table in the West End of Boston on March 18, 1918.
He got up minutes later and made his way to his modest apartment, where he spends at least an hour a day reading fiction by the likes of Danielle Steel, Stuart Woods, and James Patterson. He has never used the Internet, and once had a cellphone that he discarded because he saw no use for it.
Krinsky does not know the secret of living to 100, but believes he has at least a couple of more years on this planet. “For me, the meaning of life is to do unto others as you wish others to do to you,” he said, breaking into a kind smile. “I would tell people to exercise their body and brain. I exercise almost every day. I work out for about 30 minutes, and listen to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. when I’m on the step machine.”
He is a soft-spoken man who does not dwell on the past. But given his age, he has a lot of time to reflect on his long life. As a child, he moved to Malden’s Suffolk Square, where he was known as “Pockets” because he often kept his hands hidden. His father was a house painter, and his mother spoke to him in Yiddish. He became one of the better basketball players in the city, and started working in the garment district in Boston as a cutter. In 1941 he met Charlotte Blotner, his wife to be, on a double date.
The couple went to the movies on Dec. 7, 1941. “It was at the Roxie Theatre near Franklin Park. It was a matinee. The screen movie stopped, the lights came on, and they announced that they had very bad news, that Pearl Harbor had been bombed,” he said. “I was holding her hand, and I squeezed it, and I thought ‘Oh, boy, I’ll be seeing you. I’m going to go in the Army.’”
By 1943, he was a combat engineer building bridges when his boat capsized on the Moselle River in France. “I was a buck sergeant and my squad was with me, about 12 soldiers, and we all went into the water. I was wearing a full field pack that weighed maybe 30 or 40 pounds and I started swimming toward the shore and I went under once, came up, went under again, and came up. I was sure I was going to die. It was the end of my life. When I went under for the third time, one of my boys grabbed my lifejacket,” said Krinsky, who still remembers the soldier, Robert Keith, who drowned that day. “He was a quiet kid who caused no trouble.”
Krinsky spent much of the war sleeping in foxholes. In the winter of 1945, he was building a wooden bridge in France when it collapsed. “The bridge caught me and broke my ankle and I spent six weeks in a hospital in France. One day an officer came over to me, and they wanted to give me a Purple Heart. I said, ‘I don’t want it.’ I didn’t think I deserved it because it wasn’t actual combat,” he said.
He came home from the war in the fall of 1945, and when he arrived in New York he dialed his parents’ house to let his mother, Rebecca, know he’d be home soon. “I had an older sister and she was crying on the phone and I said, ‘what’s wrong.’ And she said ‘Mom died, she was so excited that you were coming home. She had an embolism and died.’ That was the saddest part of the war for me,” said Krinsky.
A few months later, he married Charlotte and the couple went on to have four children: Steve “the scholar;” Bob “the hustler;” Rhonda “the socialite;” and Garry “the entertainer.” They settled in Point of Pines in Revere, and during his time in the garment industry, Krinsky worked for 13 different companies while Charlotte worked at Revere City Hall. Eventually, the couple retired and moved to Florida. In 2001, Charlotte passed away and eight years ago, Krinsky returned to Revere and found a place at the Satter House.
Krinsky said life has had other challenges – he’s had cancer four times, and had to undergo a colostomy. These days, he still speaks with a sister in Sharon, and a brother in Everett.
When asked if he believes in an afterlife, he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. “This is it,” he said. “Just try to enjoy every day of your life, pick out the good things and push the bad things to the side. That’s all you can do.”