On the day she celebrated her 112th birthday, Goldie Steinberg wore her hair pinned up by a barrette and waved regally to a crowd of well-wishers from a thronelike armchair set up in the cafeteria of the Grandell Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Long Beach.
She smiled a lot and said little Sunday. To her great-grandson, Tyler Kutner, of Massapequa Park, who is 102 years younger and was availing himself of the chocolate cake baked for the occasion, she said: "You need a plate."
To a reporter who asked her if she wanted any presents, she said: "Good health."
The crowd sang "Happy Birthday;" dignitaries offered tribute. "I'm half your age," said Long Beach city councilwoman Fran Adelson. "I'm so excited to be meeting you."
Born Oct. 30, 1900, in a city now known as Kishinev, in Romania, Steinberg is believed to be Long Island's oldest person and one of just 300 to 450 people in the world older than 110, according to Grandell.
Steinberg came to the United States at the age of 23 and settled in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where she worked as a seamstress.
She met her husband, Philip Steinberg, there, and they raised two children, Ann Teicher, 70, of Hewlett, and Donald Sargent, 77, of Fairfax. Her husband died in 1967. She has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Steinberg worked into her 80s and lived alone until she was 104, then moved into the nursing center. Family told the story of how, at 83, she borrowed a ladder from a neighbor to hang some curtains. Blanche Brina, a former roommate at Grandell, told the story of how Steinberg rescued her from a coughing fit at 2 a.m. one night not long ago.
"I couldn't stop coughing," Brina said. "She got out of bed, took my hand and put two cough drops in it: 'Put one in your mouth, wait until it dissolves, and you'll fall asleep,' she said, and I did just what she said."
Superstorm Sandy forced a weeks-long evacuation of Grandell's residents and the delay of Steinberg's birthday party. She was evacuated to Meadowbrook Care Center in Freeport on Oct. 28 and stayed roughly a month, said grandson Peter Kutner of Massapequa Park.
The last few months have not been easy for her, Sargent said. She was unhappy about the forced move and the storm knocked out service to an amplified telephone that Steinberg, who is hard of hearing, depends upon.
"She'd forgotten that this was planned," Sargent said. "When I reminded her about it, she seemed to light up."