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Jewish Journal

Grand Marshal,  Grand Lady

by Wendy J. Madnick

November 29, 2001 | 7:00 pm

Sitting in her seat at the Max Factor Family Foundation Recreation Center of the Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA), 103-year-old Sylvia Harmatz cannot recall the first state to give women the right to vote. But, she remembers very clearly the first day she voted, in 1936.

"I wasn't a citizen until I married my husband, and so I used his papers and got a ballot so I could vote for [Franklin D.] Roosevelt," she said. "I was very active in politics from that time on."

Harmatz immigrated to the United States from Austria during the tenure of a different Roosevelt -- Franklin's cousin Theodore. She is the oldest resident of the Jewish Home for the Aging in Woodland Hills, and for the second year in a row, will serve as grand marshal of its annual Walk of Ages 5K Walk/Run, slated this year for Sunday, Dec. 2. The JHA's goal is to raise $100,000 for the home, the largest long-term residential care facility for the elderly in Southern California.

Harmatz has lived at the Jewish Home for seven years, five of those with her husband, Lou Harmatz, who died in 1999 at the age of 104. The lovely centenarian, whose bright eyes and enthusiastic grin make her seem decades younger, said although she wasn't exactly asked, she was delighted to get the part as grand marshal.

"The finger was pointed to me and [JHA chairman Meyer Gottlieb] said 'You are it!'" she told The Journal. When Gottlieb told her she could have any vehicle she desired for the event, "I told him I thought I'd like to ride in a red convertible. So last week he came to me and said, 'Sylvia, we got you that red convertible,' and I said, 'Meyer, I was only being facetious!'"

Not only will she get her convertible, Harmatz will also wear new running shoes provided by Nike, one of the sponsors of the event. Other sponsors include Wells Fargo Bank, the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, B'nai B'rith and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

The walk begins at 8 a.m. from the Jewish Home's Eisenberg Village, 18855 Victory Blvd in Reseda. For volunteer or sponsorship information, or to register for the Walk/Run, please call (818) 774-3324.

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