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Friday, April 25, 2014

At 102, Betty Elman gives thanks every day

By Andy Gross
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Betty Elman tends her indoor garden in her Riverdale home on Monday
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Betty Elman holds a pictures of herself at approximately 18 years of age.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
For her 100th birthday Bettty Elman’s son, Dr. Steven Elman placed his mom’s image on a $100 bill.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Bettty Elman’s birthday cards.
Betty Elman with her children Dr. Judith Brooke, Mark Elman and Dr. Steven Elman at Indian Head in the Adirondacks around 1953.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Betty Elman High School graduation picture.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
For her 95th birthday her son Dr. Steven Elman placed his moms image on a playing card.
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When Betty Elman was a child, the Bronx ended at East Fordham Road as far as she knew.

“We never met anyone who had gone there or anyone who lived there,” Ms. Elman said.  “It was like it was non-existent, as if the Bronx just stopped.”

Since that time, the Bronx and the rest of the world has changed considerably. And in her calm and resolute way, Ms. Elman has witnessed a century of history.

On Dec. 12, Ms. Elman, a Riverdale resident for more than 40 years, celebrated her 102nd birthday.

After a grand party with family and friends to mark her 100th year in 2011, Ms. Elman, a healthy, alert woman who lives independently in her own apartment, was philosophical about her recent birthday. “It’s not different than any other day,” she said. “I wake up in the morning and I say I am thankful for this day.”

Ms. Elman was born in Harlem in 1911 and went home to the Bronx, where her parents rented a house on 179th and Washington Avenue.

That same year, William Howard Taft was president and a postage stamp cost 2 cents. 

Sitting in her well-appointed Riverdale apartment surrounded by photos and memories of family, her youth, her past and present, Ms. Elman reminisced. “We didn’t even have electricity early on,” she said. “There were still horse and buggies then. I felt safe walking anyplace at any time back then.”

Ms. Elman said there was no store that sold milk in bottles or containers when she was a girl. She used to walk to the local dairy stand and fetch two quarts of milk in a pail to bring home to her family.

In 1918, Ms. Elman’s father, a kosher butcher, purchased a home on 180th Street and Washington Avenue, where she resided until she married her husband Hyman in 1941.

Ms. Elman remembered the first apartment where the married couple lived, a new building on Creston Avenue. She said the rent was $60 per month.

If there has been a constant in Ms. Elman’s Bronx tale, it has been her devotion to education and her love of walking, which dovetailed at an early age.

Ms. Elman attended PS 28 on Anthony Avenue, which was a relatively long walk from her home. “I always walked three or four miles a day. I was always climbing steps,” she said.

Betty Elman
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