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October 21, 2014

"It's nice to be Dr. Ruth..."

Long story, but yesterday morning I had breakfast here in New York with Ruth Westheimer (Dr. Ruth) who at 86 is just one month older than my own Mom and just as sharp and vibrant. I met her about 10 years ago and see her every 2 years or so--but I never really talked her longer than a couple of minutes before yesterday. She is funny and classy and bawdy all at once.

And, as I told her in the middle of breakfast, she's got big ones.

Google Dr. Ruth some time.

She was born in Bavaria, June 4, 1928. Just a few months older than Anne Frank, she lost both parents in the Holocaust after they were taken from her in 1941, but did not really learn of their deaths until 1945. She escaped the Nazis and spent her early teen years in a Swiss orphanage. She was trained and served as a scout and sniper in the late 1940s after moving to Palestine. That career was cut short when she was seriously injured by a shell in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. She spent months in the hospital. She speaks four languages (including Hebrew) but spoke no English when she arrived in NYC in the mid-1950s. She has lived in the same Washington Heights apartment for 50 years. She has been married 2 times and has been widowed since 1997. She has kids and grandkids. She is a single mother, survivor, winner, dreamer and doer. A problem solver.

And a joy to be around. I gather that she is totally incapable of feeling sorry for herself, even for a minute.

She is 4' 7" in height. That's right. 4 feet 7 inches.

An off-Broadway play about her is still running.

And she is precocious and funny. Yesterday a waiter recognized her and eagerly offered to go to the buffet for her almost as soon as we entered the dining room and before we even sat down. She quickly but graciously allowed him to do so--and then gave the star-struck waiter and fan her food preferences. Off to the buffet he went. She smiled mischievously and said: "It's nice to be Dr. Ruth."


Posted by JD Hull at October 21, 2014 10:43 AM


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