With many birthdays already behind her, Gertrude Coopersmith, a resident of the Flushing House Senior Retirement Residence since June 2006, will celebrate her 100th birthday on April 10 surrounded by family and friends on the residence’s rooftop lounge.
Her actual birthday is April 1, April Fools Day. “My parents wanted a boy,” said the Flushing House resident. “But I was born on April 1, so I fooled them!”
Born Gertrude Klein, Coopersmith is the youngest of six girls; her brother died in an accident at the age of 13.
Coopersmith was born in 1911 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. On par with her longevity, her sister Julia Berkowitz, who also lived at Flushing House, passed away in October at the age of 101.
Berkowitz could not pronounce the name Gertrude correctly as a child, so she nicknamed her “Etee.” She is still called by that name today by some family members.
When Coopersmith was 10, her family moved to Brooklyn, where she attended Erasmus Hall High School and the Maxwell Teacher Training School. She then earned her diploma and a substitute license to teach.
During the Great Depression, she found employment with the Works Progress Administration helping to provide jobs and income to the unemployed. She had known her husband, Hyman Coopersmith, since the age of 14 when she lived next door to him in Brooklyn. They wed in 1934 and remained married for 61 years. Together, they had three children, two girls and one boy.
“She is an exceptional woman and a great mother,” said Coopersmith’s daughter, Miriam Feinstein, 72.
In the 1970s, Coopersmith moved to Florida with her husband. After he passed, she returned north in 1996 and managed to take care of herself until she suffered a minor heart attack.
Coopersmith then moved into Flushing House and arranged to stay in the room next door to Berkowitz, who was already a resident there. As they grew older, the sisters resembled each other more and more; eventually some thought they were twins.
Feinstein said they were extremely close to one another and known as “the sisters” to some residents.
On the verge of becoming a centenarian, Coopersmith is still sharp and active. She paints, reads, does crossword puzzles and has even become technologically savvy with a cell phone that her daughter gave her.
Setting aside her petite and grandma-like appearance, Coopersmith is also an able opponent with when it comes to Scrabble.
The only passion she gave up since moving to Flushing House was baking.
“She was a great baker,” said Feinstein. “My husband says the only regret is that she doesn’t bake anymore.”
Coopersmith currently has seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.