When long-time Everett resident Joseph Bach was born, the Model T car was a brand new idea and William Howard Taft had recently surged to victory.
In between those days and now, Bach – who celebrated his 107th birthday with family at his new home in the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL) in Chelsea – saw two World Wars and the Industrial Revolution ramp up and then scale back, not to mention the advent of the digital age in recent years.
Bach’s story is quite amazing – and one of a survivor.
According to family members, he grew up in Lvov, Poland and was a victim of the Holocaust there.
“He and his wife, Irene, were both Holocaust survivors in Poland,” said his grandson, Matthew Bloch. “They weren’t in concentration camps, but they had to hide in plain site. My grandmother changed the religion on her birth certificate and began going to Catholic Masses. My grandfather was actually arrested by the Russian police at one point and spent time in a Gulag in Siberia. He apparently escaped from there and made it back to Poland across Siberia by foot and by train and by whatever other means necessary.”
Said his daughter, Anita Bloch, “If he could survive the Holocaust and survive an escape through Siberia, he can certainly survive beyond 107 years old. That’s his secret.”
Bach, a quiet man, only had this to say about his longevity, “C’est La Vie!”
Family members said Bach met his wife, Irene, after the war as the two were headed over the Polish border into Austria. While in Salzburg, they were married and had their first daughter.
In 1951, they left Austria and came to the United States – going through New York City and landing in Everett on Francis Street. They lived in Everett until moving to the Jack Satter House on Revere Beach a few years ago, a home Irene still keeps.
“He is a great man and has always been quiet and modest,” said Anita. “My parents spoke Polish around the house and they still do. My father also speaks German, Italian and French. Both of my parents worked until they were in their 80s. My father was in the garment industry, he sold real estate and he even had an ice cream stand. He dabbled in a little bit of everything and didn’t stop until he was in his 80s.”
Anita Bloch said she and her sister grew up in Everett, graduating Everett High School and attending the YMCA in Chelsea. By all accounts they had the typical upbringing of almost any kid in the area, but they knew that their parents had lived through some extraordinary times.
“My father never started talking about any of these experiences until he was 80,” she said. “We’re still unraveling a lot of it. It was difficult for them in t
he beginning. They had to learn a new language and get used to a new place and put the war behind them. Their circle of friends were mainly other Holocaust survivors because they shared that common bond. It was hard on him. He still feels at times that someone is watching him or people are coming to get him. He’s still afraid.”
However, on his birthday last Weds., Nov. 4, and at his party last Thursday, Nov. 5, Bach didn’t seem to be afraid of much – smiling and talking freely with friends and the media.
In fact, Bach made 107 look pretty casual – though it is anything but.