Not too long ago, you might have seen Belle Roberts “power walking” around the campus of MorseLife Health System in West Palm Beach every day and in amazement, realized that this “high stepper” was a spry centenarian over 100 years old.
Belle, a beautiful woman who could easily pass for 75, turned 107 years old on May 15th, and she could not be more positive and happy. As a resident of The Tradition of the Palm Beaches, since its opening in 2004, she has remained among the most upbeat among her neighbors and friends, and is still going strong. She says she doesn’t walk around as often, but as with that positive attitude, infectious giggle – is still as active mentally as people more than half her age.
Belle’s daughter, Carol Slater of Palm Beach Gardens, attributes her mother’s long life to that positive attitude, along with a zest for living. “Mom always told me that her own mother – my grandmother – told her to ‘take from life as much you can – just go!,” said Mrs. Slater. “So that’s what she has always done.”
A world traveler for much of her life, Belle notes her favorite trips were visits to her daughter in Geneva, Switzerland, where her late son-in-law, Sherwood (Woody) worked for the World Health Organization, and then later to Paris, where he worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “In one of my trips to Israel in the 1980’s, I remember being at the opening of the Maccabi Games,” she said. “That was really moving and thrilling.”
Belle notes that her last trip was on the road with her daughter from Florida to Cleveland to visit her family. “Family has always been important to me, and now that I am not traveling, I am glad that my wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren come to Florida to visit me,” she said.
As for her own family, Belle was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the middle child of Anna and Abraham Sidlowitz. She notes that her commitment to being active started out of necessity in her youth. “We didn’t have a car, so my family and I did a lot of walking to get to where we needed to go,” she said. “We even had to walk a number of blocks to get the street car.”
A worker nearly all of her life, she got her first job as a secretary when she was 17 years old and then married her first husband Ben Steinberg in 1932, raising two children and continued to work. When her husband passed away in 1962, she decided to join her daughter and son-in-law in a move to Atlanta, Georgia. “I had a job even before I arrived – when I came for a visit before the move, I learned of a secretarial position at The Temple and it was offered to me on the spot!” she said. It was there that she met her second husband, Irvin Roberts, whom she married in 1969. Moving to Florida in 1991 with her daughter and son-in-law who at the time was Associate Executive Director of the Morse Geriatric Center where her husband Irvin spent his last years before passing away in 2000.
“When my son-in-law Woody was still alive, he told me about the planning of The Tradition of the Palm Beaches and said that when it was built I would be ready to move in, ” she said. “Well, Woody didn’t live to see the opening, but I in fact was the first resident to reserve an apartment and have been here for 14 years.”
As for the reason for her long life, Belle notes that it has not necessarily been attributable to good genes. “Both of my parents lived to their 80s, and my siblings passed away early in their lives,” she said. “For me, I think it has been combination of active living and good fortune.”
Her daughter Carol also notes that while she only walks on occasion these days, she takes time to read, do crossword and jigsaw puzzles, dines with family members when they are in town and loves to go to Bingo. Mom has always had an active life and continues to thrive.
Belle also likes to pass along her mother’s advice – to take from life what you can. “While your life may come with some ups and downs, just take things in stride and enjoy what you really love to do,” she said.
….and with an infectious giggle, which some believe is her trademark, she notes she looks forward to a bit more to her life – “a life well lived.”