On March 31, Sylvia Hertzel, a resident at the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living in Peabody, turned 100. Although her family couldn’t physically be with her to celebrate due the current coronavirus visitation restrictions, they celebrated with her virtually – as did the center’s staff and residents.
Sylvia and her husband Ralph Hertzel grew up in the same Dorchester neighborhood. Ralph delivered newspapers and used to throw the paper up to Sylvia’s family second floor balcony. Sylvia would watch and thought he was very cute. Sylvia and Ralph were married in 1943 during World War II. Sylvia followed Ralph throughout the country while he trained as a medic prior to going overseas. She waited for over a year for him to come home. One of Sylvia’s most cherished possessions is a card Ralph sent her during the war. The last sentence expressed his sentiments perfectly. He wrote, “How much longer can the war keep me from you?”
The couple moved to Sharon in 1950, where they bought a brand-new ranch house to raise their two children, Pam and Bob. In addition to running the household, Sylvia worked as a bookkeeper at her husband’s hat making business, which was located in Boston’s garment district. Leisure time was spent with friends and families at Franklin Park Field. Sylvia enjoyed (and still does) reading, painting and card games. Sylvia and Ralph loved living in Sharon and spent 53 wonderful years together until, sadly, Ralph passed away in 1996. At that time, Sylvia moved to an apartment in Sharon and lived alone until she was 98!
Bob Hertzel, Sylvia’s son, described Sylvia as an extremely loving and loyal wife and mother. Bob posted a heartfelt tribute to Sylvia on Facebook, which ended with the following words: “You made it Ma – from the year the Sox traded Ruth to the Yanks; from the year women got the right to vote, through the depression and war and the suburbs to a quiet and lovely life. Happy 100th Birthday Mom!”
For the past two years, Sylvia has resided at the Brudnick Center for Living in Peabody. She is beloved by both staff and residents alike. Ellen Gordon, director of Resident Life at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, said that people like to be around Sylvia. “Sylvia is a role model to all of us,” said Gordon. “She shows us, every day, how to treat people respectfully, how to maintain a positive attitude by an always-present smile on her face, and how to age gracefully … Quite simply, I adore her.”
Pam Krinsky, Sylvia’s daughter, explained that her mom has a very practical approach to life and living. When asked the secret to her longevity, Sylvia replied in her straightforward manner, “Everything in moderation.”
Through the marvel of FaceTime, Sylvia’s children and grandchildren were able to celebrate Sylvia’s birthday and watch the Brudnick staff sing a rousing edition of “Happy Birthday.” They also presented Sylvia with a beautifully decorated cake. Sylvia, gracious as always, could be heard saying, “You didn’t have to go to all this fuss for my birthday, but I appreciate it very, very much. Thank you everyone.”