The DougBlog
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Anne Hirsch: The First 100 Years

A big event recently befell my family: Grandma Hirsch turned 100 years old!

As always, this was celebrated on February 22—though she was actually born on January 26, 1907. Her mother began the tradition of celebrating her children’s birthdays on the nearest National holiday, and for my Grandma that was Washington’s Birthday (now called President’s Day).

Anne Sandra Miller Hirsch is my maternal grandmother; my mother is the youngest of her three daughters. Grandma Hirsch led an extraordinary life. Born in Brooklyn in 1907, she was the oldest of four children. Her father died during the flu epidemic of 1918, so Grandma helped to support her family and raise her siblings. She became a teacher and married Jacob Hirsch, a lawyer. They had three daughters: Ellie, Marilyn, and my mom (Hedy), put them through college, and saw them all marry—shortly after which my Grandpa sadly died of a heart attack when he was only 60. But Grandma fought—and beat—breast cancer 50 years ago! Both with and without my Grandpa, she traveled the world; when she was already 80 she was going on African safaris and climbing the Great Wall of China! She was also a successful pianist and watercolor artist, not to mention a grandmother of 8 and great-grandmother of 11 (to date!). She’s known for her strong will and quick wit!

So I undertook two big projects: I made a film about her life’s story, and solicited letters of congratulations from the leaders of every country she ever visited. The response was impressive, with personal and hand-signed responses from many of them. And above all, the President of Austria (a lovely gentleman named Heinz Fischer) sent her a genuine Sacher-Torte!

So a few highlights…some pictures from her life, from her party, her video, and some letters from world leaders.

First, some pictures from the party. Here’s the birthday girl! (as always, you can click any picture to enlarge):

The senior and junior statesmen: Grandma with her youngest great-grandchild, Chelsea:

Present time!:

A proud Anne is toasted by her three daughters:

Still full of life: After my Aunt Ellie told a story, my cousin leaned over to Grandma and asked her what Aunt Ellie had just said. Grandma replied, “I don’t know, but I’ll drink to it!” and took a swig of her champagne:

Cake time!:

The Sacher-Torte sent by Heinz Fischer, President of Austria:

The Tischler contingent with the flowers sent by my other grandparents, Grandma and Papa Tischler:

If you want to watch the video about her life, you can check it out in three parts on YouTube. It’s about 25 minutes total. Just click the “play” button in the lower left hand corner of each to start it:

Part 1: Anne's early years and life in New York City in the early 20th Century:

Part 2: Anne's marriage and family and her world travels:

Part 3: Anne's art and music and a look back at 100 years of memories and loved ones:

Otherwise, here are some pictures from her life. This is the oldest one, probably around 1910. That’s her on the right, candidly carrying a book she’s clearly too young to read. Her sister Jenny is in the middle, flanked by her parents, Beckie and Myer Miller (this is the only picture of her father):

A few years later, with her mom again. Great Grandma Shayon also lived a long time–she was still alive when I was born:

College graduation from NYU. She was a star player on their women’s basketball team!:

One of the earliest pictures of her with my Grandpa (this is around 1943):

Tennis, anyone?:

Swimming (always the athlete!):

Around 1944 with her 3 daughters…Ellie on the right, Marilyn on the left, and my mom (Hedy) on her lap:

With Marilyn and my mom,

Some glamour shots:

The family in Florida in 1953. Even back then they were doing the old parrot pictures!:

Traveling the world…here she is in the Netherlands:

…and in Switzerland:

…and in Nova Scotia:

…and in Norway:

…and in Germany:

…and in Africa:

…and in Egypt:

…and her favorite place, China:

My mom’s wedding:

The family at my Grandpa’s 60th birthday party. This is just about the last picture of them all together, just before he died:

At one of her art shows:

Some of her paintings:

Grandma with me and my sister in our Thanksgiving outfits (I can’t believe my mother put me in white shoes after Labor Day…oh, the shame…):

Still the athlete, even in high heels:

At my Bar Mitzvah:

And with her three daughters on a recent Mother’s Day:

A collage of Grandma and all of her descendants:

Finally, these are the world leaders who sent her letters. Not to play favorites, but I was impressed that some of them were clearly personal and hand signed—so those are in bold. Also, I scanned a few of them (the ones that are underlined),so you can click on them to see them:

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
His Royal Majesty Albert II, King of the Belgians
His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco
John E. Baldacci, Governor, State of Maine
Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister, Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Rt Hon. Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York
George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of the Swiss Confederation
Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic
Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Senator, New York
William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
Jon S. Corzine, Governor, State of New Jersey
Charlie Crist, Governor, State of Florida
Heinz Fischer, President, Republic of Austria
Their Royal Majesties Juan Carlos I and Sofia, King and Queen of Spain
Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Moshe Katsav, President, State of Israel
Václav Klaus, President, Czech Republic
Linda Lingle, Governor, State of Hawai`i
Thabo Mbeki, President, Republic of South Africa
Mary McAleese, President, Republic of Ireland
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
Marty Markowitz, President of the Borough of Brooklyn
Stjepan Mesic, President, Republic of Croatia
Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic
Sarah Palin, Governor, State of Alaska
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Denmark
Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Sweden
Eliot Spitzer, Governor, State of New York
Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, President of the Portuguese Republic
Donald Tsang, Chief Executive, Hong Kong SAR, PRC
Knut Vollebæk, Norwegian Ambassador to the United States of America
Harvey Weisenberg, Member of Assembly, State of New York
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Spain

And no, unfortunately she didn’t get picked for Willard Scott! Rat bastard.

Happy birthday, Grandma!

PS: Here's a behind-the-scenes shot...I went through some of the old family movies on this ancient projector that sounds like a diesel engine, smelled like burning hot dogs, was emiting smoke, and had bare wires. Most people would think that was a bad idea...but I just put the fire extinguisher nearby and kept going. Now that's dedication.


  • Wow. Amazing. I have enjoyed reading about your grandmother. Very nice! Very well put together. Thank you for sharing this!

    By Blogger ronsusannglenn, at 12:26 PM  

  • Doug - you are the BEST!

    Cousin Dave

    By Anonymous DLustig, at 6:29 PM  

  • Thank You

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:55 PM  

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