Looking far younger than her years, a radiant Sylvia Rymer celebrated her 100th birthday last Tuesday afternoon at the Grace Plaza Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, surrounded by her family, friends and fellow residents.
Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender, on hand to issue a proclamation in the centenarian’s honor, was moved to say in amazement, ”I’m looking at you and I have to say that 100 is the new 50!” Rymer, who has three daughters, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, has lived in Great Neck since 1977 and is now one of eight Grace Plaza residents who has reached 100 years of age.
Celender, in reading her proclamation, commented, “Each and every day you’ve spent on this earth you’ve brought much happiness and love to those you have crossed paths with. The Village wishes you a very healthy and happy 100th birthday.”
The Mayor also praised the honoree for her accomplishment of raising her young family and working full time while doing it. “In those days,” Celender said, “being a young professional woman, you were a trailblazer. I can tell from the glimmer in your eye that you’re a very special woman. In the time that I’ve known you, it’s made me special to know you.”
Rymer smiled throughout the ceremony as speaker after speaker praised her. David Sterling, the Plaza’s assistant director of therapeutic recreation, asked her for the secret of her longevity. “A wonderful family and good friends,” she answered. The celebration was also highlighted by an extensive display of photos depicting numerous moments in Sylvia’s life.
Grandson David spoke of her role in raising him. “She was my guardian angel when I was growing up as my mother worked full-time,” he said. “She was always there for me and giving me her full heart.”
Sterling, acting as master of ceremonies, couldn’t help but interject a personal note about Rymer. “As someone who works here and sees you daily, “ he said, “you make my job worth coming to. You have a wonderful sense of humor and you’re so great to be around.”
All three of Rymer’s daughters (Jo, Carrie and Charna) attended the party. When asked what her mother thought of all the attention being paid to the occasion, Charna relayed that her mom’s comment was, “What’s all the fuss about?”
Rymer, who was born in Newark and attended school in Philadelphia, married her husband Ernie when she was 18. The marriage lasted 53 years until Ernie’s death in 1986. Having left high school to get married and then devote her time to raising and caring for her family, Sylvia waited until she was 57 to earn her high school diploma. She later earned an associate’s degree from Manhattan Community College and also worked for 20 years as a paraprofessional in the New York City school system.
Diane Sabella, Plaza’s director of recreation, knows Sylvia well. “To all of us at Grace Plaza, Sylvia is quite an intelligent individual,“ she said. “She excels at word games and if you need an answer, ask Sylvia. She always has a beautiful smile and waves to all. She also has a dry and wicked sense of humor. To her family, she is both a mentor and a role model for perseverance in following one’s goals.”