Turning 100 with a smile, friends

Sunday April 28, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- In the company of others, Freda Sass said she’s happy and content. She had a chance to prove that was true on Saturday at the Dakota restaurant.

The Pittsfield resident who turned 100 years old downplayed becoming the latest centenarian as a surprise, but she was engaging, enthusiastic, and embraced those who flocked to her for a photo or salutation, obviously happy to be surrounded by friends.

"I’ve lived as long as I could so people would be around me," said Sass, who attended her party wearing a green pant-suit and with the help of a wheelchair.

While her beloved husband Sam passed away five years ago, the man she accompanied around town to political functions and local classical music concerts wasn’t far from her mind.

The native of Hillsboro, Kan., described herself as "well" on this special day, but before acknowledging anything else, she said "I am sad my husband Sam didn’t make it with me, that’s all."

However, the room was brimming with others. There was a friend from her days joyfully singing in a chorus and her caregiver lavished her with balloons and a glass-vased flower. A former city councilor was present, and even her piano tuner who has treated his special customer to classical musical performances was there.

Former Councilor Frank Jakubowicz, who is also her attorney, reached out to Congressman Richard Neal to have the White House send Sass a letter of acknowledgment on this special day signed by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

"You’re still knowledgeable, interested in things going around, current events, politics, and are able to hold a discussion. I think that’s an achievement," Jakubowicz said.

Life is different, but she’s still enjoying herself. Friends said Sam and Freda, who didn’t have children, didn’t own a television for most of their marriage. The couple was sociable and fierce liberals, and longtime season-ticket holders to the South Mountain Concert Series.

Sass continues to stay abreast of current events, Jakubowicz said.

Prompted by a friend about her liberal ties, Sass responded with a clap of her hands and she proudly stated she was "absolutely" a Democrat.

"We’re lucky. She’s a woman of humor, intelligence," said friend Lisa Stuart, who praised Sass as being outspoken on health-care accessibility. Sass was a volunteer on the Sen. George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972, advocating for greater health-care accessibility even back then.

"She’s also funny, but she doesn’t know it," Stuart said.

These days, Sass’s hearing is declining, but she was clearly enjoying herself.

"I am glad I have my friends," Sass said as a table of them filled in the blanks of what she couldn’t remember as she smiled.

To reach John Sakata:
or (413)-496-6240.
On Twitter: @JSakata


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