By Anna Mejorada
Last month, West Side Rag covered a party celebrating 14 centenarians who all reside at the Amsterdam Nursing Home on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 112th Street. Today, the oldest of the group, Sylvia Zucker, is turning 106. I visited Sylvia last week to hear more about her life. Her son, Carl Zucker, provided additional insight into her experience from his perspective via email.
Born on August 12, 1916, Sylvia grew up on East 97th Street and First Avenue with two sisters, Anna and Dora, and her parents, who years before had fled Russia to avoid persecution. From a young age, Sylvia showed a strong interest in art and poetry — admiring, studying, and creating her own. She set her sights on becoming a teacher and achieved her goal. She taught fourth and fifth grades for several years in Westbury, New York. In that town on Long Island, she raised two children, Lisa and Carl, with her husband, Arthur, who was “a devoted and caring husband,” Carl shared. “They were very close.” Arthur died at the age of 89.
When I asked Sylvia what the greatest invention of her lifetime has been, she exclaimed “toilets” which brought a chuckle to everyone in the room. “She did grow up in a railroad tenement apartment with a shared toilet in the hall,” Carl explained. She was “very active in the Civil Rights and Anti-Nuclear War movement,” he added. “She attended Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.”
Sylvia’s favorite time of year in the city is the month of May. According to Carl, that is the month in which she celebrates her anniversary and the birthday of her late husband. “She also likes Spring [because] of her love of flowers, which are one of her passions. Her sister and brother-in-law owned a flower shop where she worked in her 20s.”
Sylvia’s love of flowers and art has not faded, and she continues to paint and sketch during her free time. She attributes her longevity to “being around nice people,” and if she could pass on any wisdom to younger generations, she said she would instead, “spend the afternoon teaching them to be considerate and singing.” She is a soprano and her favorite song is “I Wanna Be Loved By You”. As we made our way to her room to see some of her artwork, she started humming her favorite tune to herself.
When asked what piece of advice from his mom he would pass along, Carl shared, “appreciate nature and art, and accept and adjust.” He strongly admires “her love and knowledge of art and that she continues to make art.” She also loves playing games – particularly Scrabble – and has started to learn how to play the piano. She enjoys eating chicken, “maybe with a little bit of vegetables”, but definitely followed by ice cream with chocolate drizzled on top.
Hope everyone takes a moment to celebrate Sylvia today!
Great story. Thank you Anna.
Very nice article. So good to know that our community cares about our seniors Congratulations, Sylvia!
A lovely story about a lovely lady. Happy birthday
Mrs. Zucker! Your life achievements are awesome. It’s wonderful to hear how you remain actively contributing to the community. I hope you’re still playing Scrabble with your son! Many more Sto Lats (which means 100 years in Polish) to you Mrs. Zucker!
and many many more!!!!🎂
What a great story about the sweetest 106-year-old in New York!
Happy Birthday Sylvia 🎉🎉🎊🎈🎂🎁❤️
“She taught fourth and fifth grades for several years in Westbury, New York. In that town on the north shore of Long Island…”
Westbury is *not* on the north shore of Long Island, it is in the center of the island.
That was your takeaway from this inspiring piece? Sad.
It’s fine. If I keep learning something new every day, soon I can be 106 too.
Happy Birthday Sylvia! You are precisely the kind of New York City woman that I aspire to be! Also my mother’s maiden name is Zucker so I’d like to think that we are related somehow.
I hope you get lots of love and also cake today!!!!
(Also this is a wonderful article! Thank you Anna for giving us this relevant and inspired content!)
Hi Christina – just saw your comment – my Dad’s family was from L’Viv (then called L’Vov) now in Ukraine. If the Zucker side of your family is from that area we could well be related!
Thank you so much for responding! My grandfather’s family was from Germany so perhaps our connection is more distant. Regardless I love meeting any Zucker, they are always so sweet. (Sorry I could not help myself).
Thank you for this lovely article on my sweet Mom. Reading it has been a wonderful way to celebrate her birthday!
Happy Birthday, beautiful lady! We ALL “wanna be loved by you!” Enjoy your very special day.
Happy Birthday Sylvia!!!
Happy birthday to Sylvia, and many more!
Happy Birthday Mrs Zucker! Enjoy every day and every dessert!
This is so beautiful about Sylvia! Happy birthday, Sylvia, we love you!!!
What delightful history of a woman who lives life to the fullest and shares it with others.
Happy Birthday, Sylvia! May God bless you — and us — by keeping you here for a few more years.
Congratulations! Continue to enjoy all you are doing and the ice cream with chocolate drizzled on top. Sounds delicious. Nelly
Happy Birthday Sylvia. You must be a wonderful person . You represent everything I love about NYC . I would like to gift you Flowers and Ice Cream. Let me know if that is possible ?
All the best……. xxoo
An amazing woman💖
Happy Birthday Sylvia! My mom’s name was also Sylvia and she lived till 104. So maybe there’s something in the name Sylvia!!
Feliz Cumpleaños señora Zucker. God Bless you always. Your positive energy is everything.🌈🙏💕
Happy birthday, dear Mrs. Sylvia Zucker, and thank you for your wonderful example and for your good advice! We need to concentrate on what is really important. Art, nature, consideration, ice cream.
Happy Birthday Syl! I love your art, your outlook, your moxie, and everything about you! Congratulations!
Happy 106th and many more, Sylvia! I love your artwork. Keep producing it, and enjoy the piano.
What a nice story. Happy Birthday to an amazing woman.
What a lovely lady! May God bless you and your sunny, inspiring view of life, Sylvia. I am glad you are learning to play the piano.
Welcome and heartfelt story . A
person my Mom would have called
salt of the earth! What an upper!!
Happy Birthday!! Everyday is your birthday, Sylvia!
What a beautiful story…Happy Birthday Sylvia ! 🎂🎊🎈🎉🎁
Uplifting story! A beautiful, creative life being fully lived…. inspirational. Thank you for sharing the talented and delightful Sylvia with us.