2016-12-21 / Local News

Family matriarch reflects on life at 100-year milestone

Voice staff

FAMILY: Husband Joseph, of blessed memory; sons Irving (Marilyn), Arthur (Judy) and Barry; grandchildren Susan (Jason) Feuerman, Andy (Jina) Klein, David (Lisa) Klein, Stacey (Jason) Rabbino, Gail Klein and Sibby (Don) May, 14 greatgrandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

RESIDENCE: Yardley Commons in Voorhees


FAVORITE SIGNATURE DISH: Sweet and sour meatballs

HOBBIES: Bridge, crochet

Known for the tins of chocolate chip cookies she dispersed to family, friends and those in need of cheer throughout the years, crocheted Afghans—also widely disseminated—sumptuous holiday meals and never forgetting a birthday, Sarah Klein is a quintessential old-school Jewish matriarch.

The Philadelphia native—a mother of three, grandmother of six, great-grandmother of 14 and great-great-grandmother to one—worked for years as a bookkeeper and then bank teller, was an accomplished bridge player, and hosted family gatherings regularly at the Pompano Beach, FL home she and her husband Joseph shared for many years before his passing. At Yardley Commons Retirement Community in Voorhees, where she has resided in assisted living for the past eight years, Klein is still always thinking about others. She is a cheerful greeter of new residents and helps out by placing the salt and pepper containers on tables for each meal. In advance of her 100th birthday on Dec. 31, she and her oldest granddaughter, Susan Feuerman, reflected about life and longevity.

A modest woman, Klein says she addresses the milestone birthday as “just another day.” But her large family feels otherwise. Their plans include a dinner in her honor that will bring 40- plus family members together in celebration of her life.

“Her 100th birthday is an exceedingly fantastic occasion,” said Feuerman, a Voorhees resident. “The fact is that my children don’t just know her vaguely, but have strong feelings for her, great memories, and are aware of her shticks.”

Her “Gaydee’s schticks,” as Feuerman explained, all revolve around generosity and family-mindedness. An avid crocheter, Klein has made too many Afghans to count for friends and family. The cookies are another one. She would make dozens at a time, which she then placed in tins that everyone was expected to return to her in order to get future rounds of sweets.

Holidays and big-occasion family dinners were always epic. Everyone looked forward to her signature dishes, including sweet and sour meatballs, brisket, turkey and matzo ball soup.

Klein also sent birthday cards and letters to her grandchildren and the later generations without fail. Her handwriting was beautiful and all correspondence included envelopes pre-stamped with her return address, ensuring that the busy progeny could easily write back.

If a little fuzzy with dates, Klein has crisp memories of growing up poor but not feeling that way in her Northern Liberties neighborhood at a time when everybody was Jewish. There were weekly trips to Horn & Hardart for five-cent cupcakes with her girlfriends and the two new dresses that her father purchased each year for her as Chanukah gifts. Later, there was the thrill and squished feeling of packing into her future husband Joseph’s car with other friends for day trips to Atlantic City.

“When we got married, I was 19. My father made corned beef sandwiches for the guests,” she recalled.

She and Joseph, a Drexel-educated chemist, had three sons. For a long time, they owned a gas station and parking lot in West Philadelphia. They sold the land in 1967 and moved to Florida, where Klein worked as a bank teller until age 75, when she retired to take care of her husband. She and Joseph were both great bridge players, clinching titles for their clubs against other competitive groups. 

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