TORONTO — There is an old saying that you are only as old as you feel.
Susan Shore, who celebrated her 100th birthday on March 19, is proof of this adage.
“I’m a very ordinary person,” the centenarian told The CJN, standing straight, her face alit with her indelible smile – but her family and friends disagree.
“My mother is an exercise nut,” her daughter, Ronnie Helfand, said. “Since I remember from the time I was a child, she always exercised and still does every day.
“It was not a surprise to me, when I came to visit in the morning, to find her standing on her head.”
To celebrate her 100th birthday, 60 members of her family and friends gathered at Toronto’s Forest Hill Place, where Susan has been a resident for eight years.
“Susan has a wonderful spirit and family support that allows her to enjoy our Forest Hill Place community and a variety of programs on a daily basis,” said Paul Pinkus, executive director of the residence.
Welcoming the guests to the celebration was a large sign, “Celebrating 100 years of Living, Loving and Exercising.” Below the sign were pictures taken from every decade of her life.
Her son, Harold Shore, and his family came from Calgary. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to celebrate along with family and friends from Montreal, New Jersey, Minnesota, Vermont and Maryland.
At an interview with The CJN, Susan spoke with joy of her early life. “We were very poor when I was a child, but we didn’t know it. We lived through the Depression.”
She attended the Central High School of Commerce so that she could get a job and help the family.
She met Louis Shore at a social. He was working at the post office during the day and studying at the College of Art at night.
“In those days,” Susan recalled, “a Jewish teacher had difficulty getting a teaching job.
“So we moved to Pelee Island and then to Owen Sound where he found positions teaching. We moved back to Toronto with our two children, and he taught at the Central High School of Commerce until he became the director of art at the Toronto Board of Education.”
This gave them the opportunity to travel during the summer, she said. “We enjoyed the opera, symphony, ballet and many cultural events.”
Sadly, she added that her husband died at the age of 63, six weeks after he retired.
“My mother continued to travel, and she went to more than 40 countries,” Ronnie said. “She always studied the countries before she went there and always came back with fascinating stories and pictures.
“And she would have slide shows for friends, with a commentary.”
Ronnie added, “My mother walks with me at Lawrence Plaza every day, as long as the weather permits. Then we go for coffee where she tells me countless stories.”
Although she is legally blind, Susan said she always loved reading and today she reads books on CNIB disks and from the library.
Looking back, she spoke of the many courses she took, her volunteer work at Mount Sinai Hospital and her lifelong love of gardening.
She was described by a family member as “strong, independent, fearless and an intrepid woman. A real lady.”
Asked what she looks forward to in the future, Susan replied, “I just want to do the same things I’m doing now and enjoying my close family and friends.”