To say Geraldine Goldner is age defying is putting it mildly. The Westbury resident has an irrepressible and unstoppable zest for life. Just ask any one of the friends in attendance at her 95th birthday party, who unanimously and laughingly agree they want to be just like their beloved friend Gerry when they “grow up”.
“To me the secret to a long life is friends, staying active and being positive,” said Goldner, who turned 95 on Jan. 17. “Do something every day and whatever you do enjoy it.”
Enjoy life she does. The ever-active Goldner keeps a schedule that could wear out someone half her age. In addition to volunteering weekly at Old Westbury Gardens, Goldner keeps active at two senior centers.
First and foremost on the list for Goldner though is helping out others. “Every week I drive senior citizens who need help getting to their medical appointments or need assistance with shopping,” she explains. Many of the “seniors” Goldner is referring to are chronologically younger than she is.
Her positive attitude and love of life started at an early age, growing up in Brooklyn as the oldest of three children. Her parents were “extremely” encouraging, especially when she attended New York University in pursuit of the first of three careers she held.
Goldner’s first career was as a physical education teacher. Never one to sit still, a few years later she went back to NYU earning her Masters in Physical Therapy. Soon after graduating she landed a job at Fort Dix in New Jersey during World War II, aiding soldiers.
One soldier in particular caught her eye, on a blind date. “Mutual friends set us up, we both had a love of music and life. We eloped 10 months later.” Goldner fondly recalls.
By the early 1950s Goldner, her husband Harold and their two young daughters settled in the Westbury home she still lives in today. She stayed home to raise her girls until returning back to work, this time in her third and final career as a social worker, a job she held from 1963 until retiring in 1984.
Her post retirement years were just as active. Helping others always at the top of her agenda, she also volunteered at her local temple, and kept active gardening, cooking and walking, her favorite form of exercise to this day.
Goldner also loves to dance. In fact it was when she was dancing that she met the second love of her life in 1993, two years after losing her husband to cancer.
“I was leading a Conga line at the Mid Island Y in my white pants, and white boots and that was the end of David,” laughs Goldner. David Gorkin, Goldner’s 93-year old fiancé, remembers that day much the same way.
“She was wearing white pants, white cowboy boots and had a white head full of hair. I quickly ran behind her on the conga line,” Gorkin happily remembers. The pair have been together ever since.
One of the questions Goldner gets asked most frequently is people wondering where she gets her boundless energy. “She is an inspiration. She has a smile that doesn’t quit. You’re looking at the eighth wonder of the world,” said Goldner’s friend Irene Casagranda. “Gerry is my heroine, she is the kindest sweetest person. She never says a negative word about anyone,” said Nancy Gorkin, David Gorkin’s daughter-in-law.
Between them, Goldner and Gorkin share a blended family of five children, 10 grandchidren and seven great grandchildren. Goldner still hosts many family dinners, doing all of the cooking herself.
“I love cooking. I tell everyone just bring your appetites,” she said.
Besides her positive attitude and busy lifestyle Goldner attributes her long life to good genes, both her parents lived into their nineties, and a healthy lifestyle of good food and exercise. “My motto is why sit when you can stand, why stand when you can walk.”
As for her and her fiancé of 22-years, Goldner said she is in no rush to tie the knot, “Keep him hanging,” she laughed. Or maybe she is waiting until she feels she has finished “growing up”. In that case Gorkin could be waiting a while.