In recent years, Goldie Steinberg has had three pacemakers, a bout of pneumonia and, for a period of time, was living on oxygen. She has prevailed - and Sunday smiled as she celebrated her 110th birthday.
"The pleasure of my children, that's the secret," said Steinberg of her longevity after celebrating her birthday with other residents of Grandell Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Long Beach.
Actually, she celebrated twice during the weekend. On Saturday night - her actual birthday is Oct. 30 - she munched on chocolate cake with 30 friends and family who flew in from as far as Colorado and Montana.
"To me, my mom's not 110, she's my mother, she's ageless," said daughter Anne Teicher, 68, a retired New York City education administrator. "She still tells me what to do." Teicher hosted the Saturday night birthday gathering at her Hewlett residence.
The Romanian-born woman is the last survivor of a massacre in the early 1900s that took place in her home country, according to her son-in-law Sam Teicher. "She and her family had to hide in the cellar," he explained.
Born in 1900, Steinberg immigrated to the United States at age 23. She settled in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and worked long hours as a seamstress sewing draperies and dresses.
"Years ago, people were concerned with survival," Steinberg's daughter said of her parents' long workdays. Her father worked as a jeweler.
After coming to the United States, Steinberg joined a society of other Eastern Europeans who purchased burial land in case any of them died unexpectedly, a common practice for the time, according to Sam Teicher, a retired educator. She met the man she would marry, Phillip Steinberg, in the society.
Her husband died in 1967, and Steinberg remained in the third-floor apartment, where she lived for a total of 72 years before moving to the Long Beach nursing home in 2004. "She was still climbing the ladder at age 83 to hang the drapes," said Sam Teicher.
Steinberg can still speak Yiddish, but has forgotten Russian. She crochets scarves, blankets and shawls for friends and nursing home staff members, and reads a newspaper regularly.
Her longevity attracted the attention of the New England Centenarian Study sponsored by Boston University. Researchers took a sample of her blood and are planning to study her genes in their quest to understand why certain people live long lives.