This month, we bring you stories of California and California-famous seniors who can’t stop living inspiring lives. These octogenarian, nonagenarian and super-centenarian stars lived long, happy lives after surviving World War II, but now they are using that formative time in their lives to benefit others. Caregivers, home care aides and loved ones will agree that these seniors are stirring role models for the holidays and all year long.
Sonia Warshawski is starring in her first movie at age 91. Directed by her granddaughter Leah, the documentary ‘Big Sonia’ follows the Polish Holocaust survivor as she lives her life full throttle. Sonia still works six days a week at the tailor shop she opened with her husband more than 30 years ago. John’s Tailoring is the last store open in an otherwise-empty shopping mall in Kansas City, and the plot of the movie is built around an eviction notice. A 4’ 8” nonagenarian businesswoman who loves leopard print and drives herself to work every day is inspiring enough. But Sonia also goes to schools and prisons to tell her story of survival, through multiple concentration camps, her mother’s final walk into a gas chamber, and taking friendly fire on Liberation Day. She may be petite in frame, but Big Sonia casts a large shadow in her city and in her family.
Jean MacLeod grew up during the Depression, when food waste was a threat to survival, and every kitchen had a drawer full of salvaged aluminum foil and bits of string. But lately, our closets aren’t the only place where retro skills are coming back into use. The modern desire for sustainable living is bringing back old-school skills like composting, re-purposing, and cleaning with basics like baking soda and white vinegar. At age 85, Jean learned her frugality and thriftiness during the scarcities of the Depression, and the food rationing of World War II. The octogenarian from Torrance has published a new book called The Waste-Wise Kitchen Companion, where she shares what she knows with the rest of us. Reducing food waste, lowering the food budget, reviving leftovers, and even tips for how to use the vinegar and baking soda you clean with more than once are all in her book. And in the spirit of sustainable living, you can buy your copy for Kindle, if you like!
In December 2015, we told you the story of Poway’s Ray Chavez, then 103 and America’s oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor. That year, Ray went to the 74th anniversary commemoration and celebration of Pearl Harbor Day in Hawaii, his eighth visit after many years of reluctance to revisit the event. Last year, the centenarian attended the 75th anniversary celebration, since so many of his fellow sailors could not, and drew lots of fans and admirers. We’re happy to report that this December, Ray, now 105 and still going strong, made his tenth visit to Hawaii. The Spirit of Liberty Foundation, a Rancho Santa Fe-based non-profit group whose mission is to “honor American heroes and their families”, paid for Chavez’s trip to Hawaii. Accompanied by his daughter, also a Navy veteran, he was proud to represent and honor all his fellow servicemen and servicewomen who died that terrible day.