Seniors: Celebrating 100 years and a can-do attitude

Within the course of one week, Sylvia Sucher had three remarkable things happen to her — she turned 100 years old and had two birthday luncheons thrown in her honor.

She was feted by Friendship Circle of Sonoma County on July 9, and Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa threw a party on July 14, a day after her birthday. Each event drew nearly 100 guests.

Sucher moved to Santa Rosa in 1982, and quickly became a part of the community.

She was one of Friendship Circle’s 30 original members, serving as the group’s first event coordinator. The year-round program, which meets at the Jewish Community Center in Sonoma County, organizes activities for those ages 55 and up, such as excursions to restaurants, museums or the theater; and celebrating Jewish holidays with those who live in senior facilities

Sylvia Sucher with Friendship Circle director Jalena Bamberger

In addition to being a dedicated member, Sucher served on Friendship Circle’s advisory committee for many years, helping make key decisions.

“She was a vital part, and in many ways a face of the Friendship Circle,” says program director Jalena Bamberger.

In order to give back to Sucher for her contributions, Bamberger organized an elaborate birthday luncheon with live klezmer music, cake, balloons and colorful decorations. Sucher “glowed” during the party at the JCC, according to Bamberger, as 90 of her closest friends and family showered her with hugs and kisses.

Such grace is typical of Sucher’s demeanor, according to friends. “She fits the description of ‘a lady’ in the way that she carries herself and speaks,” says close friend Bob Raful. “I’ve never heard her say a harsh word about anyone. She epitomizes a positive outlook on life.”

Congregation Beth Ami’s birthday luncheon for Sucher drew more than 100 guests, according to organizers. Many told stories about Sucher’s life and her determination to move on despite challenges — such as polio at age 4, the death of a daughter 12 years ago, and deteriorating health in recent years.

Her upbeat attitude is contagious, Bamberger says. “At the end of every conversation, she would always make me feel like ‘I can.’ I can live and I can do it.”