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Founded in 1989 by Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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Elsa Brehm Hoffmann

For Elsa Hoffmann, life doesn’t get any better than this at 100.  As she told millions of viewers who watched the Barbara Walters Special on longevity on April first, “My golden years have been like sparkling diamonds.” 
          By anyone’s standards, Elsa’s long life has been successful, fulfilling and happy. And since reaching the century mark, “things have gotten even better,” she says.  “There are always a couple of parties or luncheons to attend each week, or community or charity events, and I am always singled out and given lots of attention or a special introduction.



Lynn and Elsa at Elsa's 100th Birthday

          I have lots of friends; we play bridge weekly to keep our minds sharp, and I played golf regularly until just a couple of years ago – now I play only occasionally, when there is a benefit or something special at the club.
          Elsa’s two daughters, granddaughter and great granddaughters live nearby, and they spend as much time together as possible.  “It’s often hard to get in touch with her,” granddaughter Sharon reports.  “She’s always on the go!”  Daughter Joan is her mother’s frequent and willing companion – “I love her social life – we have a lot of fun!"
           Recently, Joan accompanied her mother on a cruise Elsa had arranged as part of her centenary celebration.  They went to the Caribbean for a week and had a “wonderful time.”  In September, Elsa bought a brand new car for her birthday gift to herself, a sporty Lincoln, in metallic purple, “because it’s a little different.”  Elsa loves driving her new car around her south Florida locale.        

         Elsa also loves a party and the “penultimate” for this experienced hostess was her centenary gala in October 2007. Beginning with her design of the elaborate but tasteful, Elsa set the theme for her celebration – cream colored invitations with embossed gold lettering and a delicate (organza) bow. All the decorations were white and cream: the flowers, table clothes, gold and silver balloons, and Elsa’s outfit, which she designed and had made. As a special touch, she wrapped her cane, which she carries as a precaution to prevent a fall, in white organza to match her outfit.  

 

          The cane was also a special purchase, with a gold handle. Elsa has a collection of them, each to go with an outfit.  That’s how detailed she is. 
          “I love the details – the special touches,” she tells. And her birthday celebration was filled with them.  “It was like a wedding reception,” she explains, “for 200 friends and family from all over the country.” I loved designing the flower arrangement and the table settings, selecting the menu and the entertainment.  I like making people happy and giving them a good time.”  Elsa’s party was an enormous success!  Everyone had a wonderful time, including, especially, the radiant hostess and grand dame!

 
  My Grandmother, Elsa ... MiMi
  ... a letter from granddaughter, Sharon

Granddaughter Sharon and Elsa
Granddaughter Sharon and Elsa

I have been the "mini-biography" writer for my grandmother for various local media and our own family memories.  The focus always seems to be on her amazing health and looks and cognitive function, which all agree are extra special, but to me there's even more to know about Elsa that makes her such an exceptional person and example of living life to the fullest despite adversity.
       At 16, Elsa fell in love with her future husband Bill Hoffmann, who was 10 years her senior.

        They met at a German picnic where Elsa was taking care of two younger siblings. Bill told someone next to him, before he’d even met Elsa, that he "was going to marry that girl."
Elsa’s father forbade them to see each other until she was older. Love survived. He came back when she was 17 to ask her father if he could marry Elsa, and Elsa's father said to "come back in six months".
          How many of us in this day and age could deal with this?  Teenagers run away from home for less!
          A few months later, Elsa's father said "Where is that guy?" At 18, Elsa married Bill. He entertained family and guests playing German songs on the piano, and, being older, he already had a beautiful car that was impressive to all too, because he was responsible and able to purchase such a car.
          Elsa dreamed of being a teacher, but her father insisted she attend business school and help with the family business.  Being a young bride at 18 with a husband working untold hours to build his roofing business, Elsa found herself soon after struggling to keep it together with a few young children at home.  She had a nervous breakdown.  Of course, she took doctor’s advice, recovered and came back stronger than ever.
          In her late 30s, Elsa and Bill wanted another child, but the doctor said it was too late. Then, Pamela was born soon after.
          Any of these events may have made a weaker or more negative person live a life filled with anger and resentment or to give up on dreams. They only made Elsa stronger.  She used her business knowledge to be a vital help to her husband and the roofing business, as well as their venture in the motel business in Florida. 
          Hard times seemingly make her stronger and even more set in her positive life philosophies that help her enjoy life so fully. She's someone who has friends from so many backgrounds. Elsa’s 100th birthday party included invites to super wealthy, life-transforming philanthropists, but also to her plumber and her seamstress of many years. She even called those who were sick and couldn't attend her party to talk to them before proceeding to open the vast number of gifts she received. Though the invitations specified "no gifts," she received many beautiful gift baskets, restaurant gift certificates and other thoughtful presents.
          This is a woman who taught me that it's worthwhile to buy a special pair of shoes that only go with one outfit if they "make the outfit," but also refused to buy red peppers once when I was shopping with her because they were priced too high!
          This is a woman committed to her family, but knows enough when to take care of herself first, so she can be her best for others. This is a woman who uses "Slim Fast" if she gains a few pounds. Yes, this is a woman who secretly met up with the love of her life from the age of 16 until they were married …in an old-fashioned world, that was probably a pretty brazen thing to do.
          This is a woman who lived in times of prejudice, but overcame any of those pressures so she could enjoy the wonderful friendships of all kinds of people from many walks of life, backgrounds and different sexual preferences. This is a woman who is a loving great-grandmother and welcomed my husband and my adopted little girls from Russia, the younger being named for her … and she is strong like her too!
          This is my grandmother, Elsa ... aka, our "MiMi".

Elsa with her great granddaughters
Elsa with her great granddaughters

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1998-2013 National Centenarian Awareness Project & Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
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