From this morning’s newspaper, life advice from Trudy Strauss. She’s not rich or famous or on Youtube and I haven’t bothered to google her. The column (printed in full below the fold) told me all I need to know. Here’s the gist:
It’s all about being positive.
Attitude really is everything.
Make good friends.
Try to be tolerant and open-minded.
Happy 93rd birthday, Trudy. And thank you.
Time’s on the upbeat for her
By William Porter
Denver Post Columnist
Article Last Updated: 03/19/2008 01:52:42 AM MDT
Trudy Strauss was drinking a cup of coffee when I met her. Given that she had just finished her daily swim and was chatting animatedly with friends, she hardly seemed in need of a caffeine boost.
Just six days shy of her 93rd birthday, Strauss remains a dynamo. All this after witnessing humanity at its best and worst over nearly a century.
An acquaintance had told me about her. I had to call.
“You want to write about me?” said the voice on the other end of the line. “OK, sure. Any day but Tuesday, because that’s when I work as a ticket-taker at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.”
So we worked out a time that didn’t interfere with her pottery classes, volunteer work, moviegoing, hiking or swimming.
Like I said, she’s a busy woman.
We sat down last week, and Strauss told me her story.
She grew up in a small German town not far from the Rhine River. Her family was Jewish. She spent her childhood amid the economic collapse that enveloped Germany in the wake of World War I, when Jews were already being scapegoated for the country’s problems.
“There was already prejudice,” said Strauss, who is petite and white-haired. “When we played games as children, the kids would say, ‘We’re going to play shop. We’ll be the customers and you’re the shopkeepers, because all Jews are businessmen.’ “
Strauss left Germany in 1935, two years after Hitler rose to power. She was 20 years old. She came to New York City via Paris, while her parents and two siblings moved to Palestine, then under British mandate.She lost more than a dozen relatives in the Holocaust, including her aunts and uncles.
“And my friend in Paris? The Nazis shot him as soon as they marched in,” she said.
Adjusting to the United States was difficult.
“I did housework, worked in the garment district on the Lower East Side, worked in restaurants,” she said. “It was a struggle.”
But Strauss met a man and fell in love. They had three children and wound up here in 1949.
“It took us about five years to get a foothold,” she said. “We were lucky we didn’t have the money to move back, because we came to love Denver.”
When the family moved to the then-new University Hills neighborhood, the conservatory- trained Strauss began teaching piano. She taught for 40 years. At one point she had 50 students and a waiting list. She still teaches; she has one student.
Now a widow, she spends her days listening to classical music — “Erik Satie wrote fascinating short pieces, just exquisite in their complexity” — holds season tickets at two theater companies and reads avidly.
She still drives.
It’s impossible to spend time with someone pushing the century mark and not ask the secret to a fulfilling life.
I practically apologized for the question, but Strauss smiled and waved me off. She has been at the receiving end of the question long enough, and since her own mother lived to be 96, she had asked the question herself.
“It’s all about being positive,” she said. “Attitude really is everything. Stay active. Make good friends. Try to be tolerant and open-minded.”
I walked Strauss to her car, a spiffy hatchback. She stuck out her hand.
“It was a pleasure,” she said.
“It was all mine,” I said.
William Porter’s column runs three times a week. Reach him at 303-954-1977 or firstname.lastname@example.org