Editor’s note: The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin prepared this article for our February 17 issue in celebration of what was to be Anne Mayberger Blair’s 100th birthday on February 18. The issue went to press on February 7 and began to reach subscribers’ homes on February 13. Sadly, she passed away that day. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.
The funeral service for Anne Mayberger Blair will be on Sunday, February 16, 1 pm, at the Ottawa Jewish Community Memorial Chapel, 1771 Cuba Avenue.
Anne Mayberger Blair: secret to a long life is keeping busy
By Lorri Benedik
In February 1914, a copy of Vanity Fair or Vogue magazine cost 25 cents and silent movie-goers got their first glimpse of Charlie Chaplin.
Anne Ginsberg was born in Ottawa on February 18, 1914.
“My mother gave birth to all eight of us at home,” she said during a visit last month. “That was the norm in those days.”
When she was 20, Anne married Hyman Mayberger. They raised five children together.
“It was the depression era and we didn’t have much but we always made do,” she said.
While Anne prefers to direct attention away from herself in favour of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, one topic she doesn’t shy away from is her lifelong passion for fund-raising.
When her kids were still quite small, she imported menorahs from New York to raise money for Pioneer Women. The order arrived very late. Anne recalls how she and a friend froze their fingers selling them door-to-door in the days preceding Chanukah.
Later on, she ran the gift shop at the Beth Shalom synagogue for six years and raised funds for the Degania group (Israel’s first kibbutzim). In recognition of her dedication, Anne was chosen by them to travel to Israel with her father to see the results of their efforts.
“My mom has an outgoing way about her and is very kind-hearted,” said Anne’s daughter, Shelley Schachnow. “She has also mastered the delicate balance of being a toughie without being bossy. We are grateful for her good health and sharp mind as she reaches 100 years.”
Shelley explained that her mother’s life has not been easy.
“She has outlived three of her children,” Shelley said. “When this occurs it is one of life’s cruelest blows.”
Anne’s daughter-in-law, Linda Nachfolger-Mayberger of Montreal shares an anecdote about her mother-in-law: “I began dating Morty Mayberger after we met through mutual friends. It was a long-distance relationship and we’d known each other for just a few months when I received a letter in the mail. It was from Anne, inviting me to come to Ottawa for the first night of Passover. I was deeply touched. I accepted and she welcomed me into her home so warmly, as if I was already family.”
Nearly ten years ago, Anne suffered a mild stroke. She survived it well but was told she could no longer drive.
“I am an independent person, by nature, and didn’t want to be a burden,” she said. “Shortly after recovering from my illness, I was visiting my daughter Ruth in Montreal and noticed a building being constructed close by.”
It was a seniors’ residence called Westmount One. She visited, liked it very much and decided to move in. “It was a big change – but made sense,” Anne said. I have a bigger mishpucha here so they can take turns helping me out.”
It has been six years since she relocated to Montreal after 94 years in Ottawa. Anne is as active as ever. She looks after her granddaughter’s two Shih Tzus twice a week and continues her fund-raising ways by organizing bingo games with the proceeds supporting a variety of causes.
“I have sent cheques to the Alzheimer’s society, the Children’s Hospital and Montreal’s Miriam Home,” she said. Running two bingo games a week is time-consuming with the paperwork she must do so that contributors receive tax receipts.
Anne has no secret recipe to offer those who strive to be centenarians.
“I enjoy simple foods like homemade soup and a nice piece of flanken,” she said. Anne also loves borscht, fruits and vegetables and occasionally indulges in sweets.
“But I really believe that the secret to a long and healthy life is to keep very busy. I have recently taken up knitting and create scarves for homeless people,” she said. “Knitting is something I can do, while conversing with my friends at the residence. It makes me feel good to be doing something useful.”
In lieu of gifts for her 100th birthday, Anne has suggested friends make donations to Children at Risk, an organization in Ottawa which supports children with autism spectrum disorders. Visit www.childrenatrisk.ca for information.