Sid Cojac doesn’t let small details such as advancing age get in the way of having a good time, and at a recent party to celebrate his 102nd birthday, he was doing just that. Mingling and chatting with everyone, smiling for photos, and indulging his appetite for pastries, Cojac was in his element.
The Huntcliff Summit senior residence in Sandy Springs has been his home for the past decade, and Cojac seems at peace with it. “One of the blessings of my life is finding this place,” he told the Atlanta Jewish Times before the party Monday, Nov. 23. “I want to give them a plug. They are true professionals and make the last years of your life very enjoyable; they take care of you.”
It took a little while to settle in, he said. “Like everything else, there was an adjustment period of I would say four or five months. You realize this is your home for the rest of your days. You have to make the best of it and do what is right for yourself — being with other people and just enjoying life.”
There is more to it than that, though. He takes pride in the fact that he still is active and busy and has made a name for himself as a founder of the pickleball team at the Marcus Jewish Community Center, where he is a regular visitor and has his own reserved parking space.
Yes, he still drives.
“I’ve got a ’97 Lexus. Best car I ever had,” he said.
But his daughter Roni Mintz, sitting next to him, conceded that driving at his age can be problematic for others. “It is controversial. People get very agitated that you’re letting your 102-year-old father drive a car. But he goes to the doctor by himself, to Home Depot, the MJCC. … It’s fine.”
Cojac refers to the Marcus JCC as his home away from home. “They call me the mayor of Main Street,” he said. “We have discussion groups, like talking heads, for mental stimulation, so to speak.”
He described pickleball as being similar to badminton, but it’s played with a Wiffle ball. He said it has grown immensely in popularity, and 125 players have signed up at the center.
Asked how her father’s health is these days, Mintz said: “It’s astonishing. It’s a very interesting phenomenon for our family. He’s not issue-free. He’s had cancers, but he’s in good health because everything was found early. You don’t live to 102 without having something.”
Cojac was born in Harlem, N.Y., in 1913, one of seven siblings. He married twice and ran a printing business, eventually settling in Charlotte, N.C., where his son Stuart still lives.
He also opened a summer camp for poverty-stricken children in Charlotte that still exists. “All told, I’ve had a blessed life,” Cojac said. “From where I started in a poor Orthodox family, there were times I was the only one working, and all I had was a nickel to get to work in the morning. Those were very trying days, but when you work hard and persevere and you like what you’re doing, you become successful.”