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
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.
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!
Grandmother, Elsa ... MiMi
... a letter from granddaughter, Sharon
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
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
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
In her late 30s, Elsa and Bill
wanted another child, but the doctor said it
was too late. Then, Pamela was born soon
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
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".
1998-2013 National Centenarian Awareness Project & Lynn Peters
No material, in whole or in part, may be reprinted
or reproduced in any form without the prior written permission
of Lynn Peters Adler and the National Centenarian Awareness Project.