— Milton Ross has lived a full, long life: 107 years, to be exact.

He’s had a wife, Anne, a son and a grandson he loves very much. He taught high school, was a treasurer for a tobacco company and served as an Army sergeant during World War II. He hiked, played tennis and wrote a book of poetry about his life.

But one of the things he remembers most clearly is how, as a boy, he was taught to knit in school. He used that skill to knit wristlets for the U.S. troops fighting in the trenches in France during World War I, something he’s still proud of nearly a century later.

“They let their fingers be free to fire their weapons, but they protected their hands and arms,” Ross said. “I was just trying to do my part to help.”

Tuesday, Ross and five other centenarians who live in a Southfield senior complex were honored by the city for their longevity, experience and service. The others are Faye Rice, 103, Minna Kaufman, 102, Lenore Dunsky-Weiss, 102, Meyer Blackman, 102, and Harriette Johnson, 101.

“I hope those of you here with younger relatives, that they can come to you and pick your brains,” Marty Williams, executive assistant to Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, said during the ceremony in The Park at Trowbridge. “You have a wealth of knowledge. You can never replace that.”

Many of the center’s more than 200 residents joined in the party, which featured staff in flapper costumes, root beer floats and candy cigarettes for dessert, and music from the 1920s and ’30s.

“It’s an outpouring of love showing people they are blessed with their longevity,” said Jenny Marroni, the director of residential programming and transportation at the facility, and the one behind the celebration. “It’s to honor our elders.”

As much as the caregivers tried to make the party like the old days, life today has completely changed, according to Rice.

“It was a very different time,” she said. “All of the children today don’t think like we do. They don’t value the things we did.”

Rice was born in Chicago, a premature baby who weighed only 4 ½ pounds. Eventually, her family moved to Detroit during World War I.

Later, she met and married her husband, Mel, who was in the Navy. Together, they moved to Oregon while he was in the service during World War II.

She worked as a secretary and as a saleswoman before opening a custom furniture business with her husband. She also cared for her parents, something she is proud of.

“I don’t regret one iota of my life,” she said, “because I know I did it right.”

Kaufman became an American after her family in Germany sent her to the U.S. to live with her older brothers in 1938, shortly before World War II began.

“We saw it coming,” she said.

She was living in New York when she met her husband, Otto, who also was originally from Germany. She says he had a sense of humor to match her own, and they had so much fun together.

He even made her laugh when he proposed.

“When he came over, he said he had this ring,” she said. “He said, ‘See if the ring fits.’ It fit.”

She hasn’t taken it off since, though her husband died long ago.

In his 107 years, Ross, too, hasn’t lost his sense of humor. In a poem he wrote to mark his 106th birthday, he talked about how he’s too young to be ready to go to “Hades.” But he also knows he’s too old to “chase after the ladies.”

“Here I am, at 107, trying to get along and live the rest of my life,” said Ross. “I can’t see or hear very well, but other than that, I’m doing good.”

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Secrets to a long, happy life

Meyer Blackman, 102:

“Watch your diet.”

Harriette Johnson, 101:

“I had very good parents and I had good food.”

Lenore Dunsky-Weiss, 102

(Son Bob Dunsky spoke on her behalf): “She loved her family. She played golf until she was 90. Her family always came first and she always took care of herself.”

Faye Rice, 103:

Value the most important things in life, such as your family. “I don’t regret one iota of my life, because I know I did it right. I did my best.”

Milton Ross, 107:

Live right and don’t smoke (although he did work for a tobacco company much of his life and enjoyed smoking cigars and pipes). “The main thing is good genes. My parents had good genes and they gave them to me, so I turned out to be able to last this long.”

Minna Kaufman, 102:

A life with humor is a life well-lived. As for how to live to be more than 100? “I can’t judge that. I’m surprised myself.”
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