GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — There’s an old saying: “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” In the case of Jerry Rhodes, you might say “You can take the boy out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the boy.”
Rhodes celebrated his 100th birthday Sunday, Sept. 13, at Seashore Gardens Living Center with a proclamation, cupcakes, balloons and a special outdoor visit from his granddaughter Melanie and her husband, Aaron, Dweck, both of New York, and his daughter and son-in-law, Ellen and Lloyd Eisen, of Linwood. The family was wearing decorated baseball hats that said “We (Heart) Jerry” and “Cheers to 100 Years!” It was especially fitting that his special day fell on Grandparents Day this year.
Rhodes joked that the secret to a long life is not chocolate, as some might imagine. He credits his sensible lifestyle and his ambitious nature in reaching this milestone. “I think my family and I adhered to a normal dietary and health advice, good clean living — mostly,” he said. “I always strove for something a little higher up or a little better than what came to me. I went to a super tough high school. I traveled to it every day for four years from my distant apartment in Manhattan. In the Army after basic training, I went on to officer training, which was tough. In college, before and after the army, I not only took a bachelor of arts course, I added science courses to learn about the world. I sought and got the presidency of the dramatic society. In other words, I tried to get ahead.”
The birthday celebration at Seashore Gardens was 125 miles south of Rhodes’ original home, the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Rhodes’ neighborhood is now known as “the Heights,” many blocks above where the George Washington Bridge brings people to New York City from New Jersey.
Born Sept. 13, 1920, Jerry developed his deep New York roots early on by reading the New York Times newspaper on the kitchen table each morning. Each weekday, he set out on an arduous trek to Townsend Harris High School, more than 100 blocks downtown on 23rd Street. Successful completion of his studies at Townsend Harris guaranteed Rhodes’ acceptance, tuition-free, at the City College of New York, where he earned his first degree.
During World War II, Rhodes served in the U.S. Army and was deployed to France. During this time, he started a correspondence with a young woman named Helen Snader. Upon his honorable discharge, he earned a master’s degree from New York University. Jerry and Helen had kept in touch and they married during this period, living in Manhattan.
For the next twenty or so years, Jerry taught English composition, public speaking and the communications arts at the college level in Brooklyn. In 1979, Jerry Rhodes retired and he and Helen settled in Boynton Beach, Florida. Jerry found a news vendor there and subscribed to the daily and Sunday New York Times, of course.
While in Florida, Helen and Jerry Rhodes developed an interest in square dancing. Their interest became a passion and the couple attended square dance events all over the South. While competing out of town, Jerry Rhodes would always find an out-of-town news dealer so he could get “his Times.’
Upon Helen Rhodes' passing, Jerry Rhodes decided to relocate to Atlantic County to be closer to his daughter and family in Linwood. He moved into Seashore Gardens' residence to start the newest chapter in his life, with the proviso that he could receive the daily and Sunday editions of "his Times." The provision was met and Rhodes gets his daily fix of news of his old hometown, which he shares with his fellow residents.
The Simon & Sylvia Zisman Seashore Gardens Living Center is a nonprofit home for the aged, guided by Jewish tradition, law, and charity, dedicated to enriching the quality of life for its residents. The 125,000 square foot senior Living Center features a continuum of services which include assisted living, short- and long-term nursing care, Alzheimer’s care, respite care and full rehabilitation services all under one roof. For more information, see seashoregardens.org .
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