/BY REGINE ROSENFELDER/ //SPECIAL FOR THE AJT//
Always brave. Her motto was to, “accept what life deals you and make the best of it.” The most important people in her life were her two daughters Regine and Suzan. Born in Poland in 1904, as one of nine siblings, life had many hardships and survival was not easy. After World War I, she was among a group of children eligible for transport to Switzerland for recuperation of severe malnutrition.
In 1929, after marriage to my father, my parents moved to Antwerp, Belgium and started a new life and family. New language to learn as well as new customs, she built a happy home for my father, my sister and me. As World War II became imminent and Belgium the next target for the German invasion, in May 1940 we packed our “necessities,” only those that we could carry with us, and the family left our comfortable home behind and fled to France, hoping to be safe there.
Sadly, only after a few months of living in a little peaceful village named Vicq, her husband and the rest of the men in our family received summons to report to work camps and from there, ultimately, were deported to concentration camps and never returned. Our grandfather, hidden on a farm, was the only man in our family to survive the war.
Separated from her husband and children, she survived the Holocaust by being hidden with individual French families for whom she worked. Sally and her daughters were reunited in 1945.
Having lost her husband, she worked hard to rebuild her life, moved back to Belgium, and with the help of her brother who lived in the U.S., she came to America in 1951. She was employed at Lovable Brassiere Co., learned to speak English and enjoyed living in Atlanta.
Our mother met Abe Nyssenkorn, remarried in 1961 and had a happy life with Abe. After 39 years of marriage, Abe passed away at the age of 89. Our mother, at the age of 95, moved to an independent living facility, The Jewish Towers, where everyone knew her as an amazing person, always friendly and good natured. She loved to be busy and the Fridays spent at the Zaban Community Center, were her favorite times.
She looked forward to participating in arts and crafts as well as Bingo and Black Jack. The family gatherings for the Holidays were the most important – with Passover Seders always at her house, doing the cooking with her daughters at her side, until she was in her 90s.Mother looked forward to her 100thbirthday celebration and when she reached this milestone, the parties went on for four days! She loved every minute of it!
Mother has raised my sister and I with a strict hand: respect for your elders, always in command, and through the years, never realizing that her children were growing older too. In her eyes, we were forever young.
How lucky we are to have had a grandfather, living to the age of 101, who walked my sister and I down the aisle at our wedding ceremonies, and our aunt, my mother’s sister, living to the age of 106. How many families are lucky enough to have such longevity to brag about?
Another year has come and gone. We’ve celebrated her 105th and then her 106th birthday. We were so proud of her, always keeping her dignity and reassuring us, “I’ll be alright…don’t worry.” She again made her wish, before blowing out the birthday candles, stating with determination, “Let us all stay healthy and G-d willing, our whole family will be together again for next year’s celebration.” We dealt with many ups and downs, but mother made it through like a fighter, always positive: “It looks worse than it is,” “I’ll be alright, don’t worry.”
And so, our family gathered for birthday 107, 108, 109 – always so happy that she could be here for another celebration. We’ve watched, with a heavy heart as she slowly declined. She is the anchor that has kept us together – the three of us linked together as one unit. She is the last of the nine siblings and the last link to our past.
Our Mother has always been small in size – less than 5 feet tall – but a giant in spirit. She had an infinite amount of perseverance and determination to overcome terrible trials and tribulations faced during her lifetime. Always holding fast to her faith, her family, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, especially at Holidays and Special celebrations, were the most important people and times in her life.
Just last month, we celebrated her 109th birthday as she reached this unbelievable milestone, still giving us an occasional smile when we called her name, but looking at us with sad eyes as if questioning. “What do we do now? “We loved our mother dearly. Everyday was a gift because she’s been a wonderful mother: gracious, appreciative and kind. We will miss her so….
Suzy and Regine