Volume 73, Number 47 | March 24 -30, 2004

Village View woman gazes back over a full century

By Albert Amateau

Villager photo by Ramin Talaie

Rose Cohen at her 100th birthday party earlier this month on First Ave.

Barry Cohen, 72, a resident of Southbridge Towers in Lower Manhattan, went to his mother’s birthday party in her East Village apartment on Mon., March 15, and invited a reporter and a photographer from The Villager.

Rose Cohen doesn’t like to tell her age and when she came to New York from Poland as an infant with her mother and father back in 1904, they didn’t bring anything like a birth certificate, Barry said. “But the year she was naturalized in 1948, they recorded her age as 44, so that makes her 100,” he said.

Alert and sitting up straight in her wheelchair, she greeted visitors to her Village View apartment on First Ave.

“This is one of the best days I’ve ever had,” she said. True to form, she declined to say how old she was. “I’m 71,” said a visitor. “O.K., I’m 71 too — I wish I was,” Rose replied. She’s much more interested in the present than the past, but reluctantly reminisced a while.

When she was born, the subway was just built and horse-drawn vehicles were still common on the streets of New York.

“I lived in the Bronx but I was married in Brooklyn,” she said. “My father was a custom tailor. Before I was married I worked in a place where I did everything. I was even a model when the buyers came in. It was Lobel’s — they made blouses.”

It was there that she met her future husband, Abe Cohen, a truck driver for Lobel’s who eventually went into the trucking business for himself. They married on June 30, 1929, a few months before the Wall St. crash. Fortunately, Abe’s trucking businesses survived the Great Depression.

“We lived in Brighton Beach, but my husband had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to go to work. We lived in New Jersey for a short time when the business moved and then we moved here. I like it better in Manhattan. It’ll be 40 years in this apartment. This is a very good neighborhood. We have everything here — what’s not to like,” she said.

Abe Cohen died in 1990 at the age of 87, said Barry. “If it weren’t for his smoking, he’d still be with her,” he added.

“When I was a kid I used to go to a lot of concerts,” said Rose, “Carnegie Hall — I loved that place.” Rose also remembers seeing the Dodgers play at Ebbets Field with her son during the years in Brooklyn. “It was terrible when they left, everybody was so mad at them,” she recalled.

Juana Mendez has been helping Rose get around for the past eight years. “She’s the best patient I ever had,” said Mendez.


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