If anyone knows the secret to longevity, it is Eleanor Karp, a much beloved resident at the Leonard Florence Center for Living who turned 106 on September 1.
Born on September 1, 1914 in Dorchester, Eleanor was the youngest of three. She loved school, dancing and socializing with her many friends. In fact, Eleanor met her husband Henry Karp through her girlfriend, who ultimately turned out to be her sister-in-law. It was love at first sight. Eleanor and Henry married on June 26, 1938.
Before starting a family, Eleanor worked at Schrafft’s, the renowned candy company in Charlestown. After her sons, Michael and Harvey, were born, Eleanor devoted her time to running the household in Everett.
“The whole community there was concentrated in one area of Everett,” said Jeanne Karp, Eleanor’s daughter-in-law. “She shared a two-family home there with her sister-in-law and brother-in-law. They were very close. They actually bought the house together. My mother-in-law and father-in-law lived downstairs for many years. When their kids got older and moved away, they moved to Grenada Highlands in Malden. They lived in Everett, though, for many, many years and raised their family there.”
Celebrations played a huge role in their lives.
“The Jewish holidays were legendary in our house,” said son Harvey Karp. “We had at least 30 people, with the tables extending into three rooms.”
Added Harvey, “My mom is an amazing cook. Her brisket, matzah ball soup, gefilte fish and stuffed knadles were the best I have ever eaten. She even made her own horseradish.”
That has transferred over to her life at the LFCFL, where she often gives advice to the chefs at the home and shares her expertise with them about how to make “real” Jewish food.
“Once she got to the Leonard Florence, she bought the chefs a Jewish cookbook to try to teach them how to make real Jewish food,” said Jeanne. “Food is very important to her and she still gives the cooks a lot of friendly advice there.”
Eleanor and Henry Karp lived in Everett and Malden for most of their married life. They led a highly active social life, frequently entertaining friends and family. Henry was one of eight siblings – four boys and four girls –and Eleanor was extremely close to all of them. She organized huge family outings every summer. Eleanor and Henry were married for 46 wonderful years. Sadly, Henry passed away in 1984 at 74 years of age.
In 2010, Eleanor moved from the Jack Satter House in Revere to the Cohen Florence Levine Estates Assisted Living in Chelsea. She loved the bus trips and visits to area restaurants, especially Jimmy’s Steakhouse, The Continental and Kowloon. Meals in the dining room at Cohen Florence Levine Estates were the highlight of her day.
Adored by her children, son Harvey and wife Jeanne, and son Michael and wife Charlene, Eleanor cherishes her four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. She presides over the family with love, warmth, and humor.
“Eleanor is a truly remarkable woman,” said Jeanne Karp. “She is generous, loving, sharp and fun to be around. Actually, I can’t imagine having a better mother-in-law.”
Said Joseph “Coty” Miller, Recreation Program Director of the Leonard Florence Center for Living, “Eleanor brings a sense of warmth to everyone she comes into contact with…Eleanor possesses wisdom, intellect, and wit. Her stories about her life are overwhelmingly joyful and insightful. In short, Eleanor Karp is truly one of kind.”
Harvey and Jeanne Karp are thrilled Eleanor is a resident at the Leonard Florence Center for Living.
“We feel extremely fortunate she is living in such a beautiful building with a private room and bath, but even more importantly, we are deeply grateful to the incredible staff at the Center,” said Jeanne Karp. “They genuinely care about her.”
Jeanne Karp said Eleanor is still very sharp in her mind, despite the fact she can no longer walk. She invests in the stock market for her grandchildren – giving the stock to them for gifts – and pays close attention to current events. For her age, Jeanne said it is quite impressive to hear her elaborate on her interests.
“She’s very alert,” said Jeanne Karp. “Her mind is perfect. She has slowed a little lately, and part of that is age, but a lot of it has to do with being quarantined for so many months. She’s sharp and knows about what’s happening in the world. She can’t walk, but has full control over her mind.”
On Sept. 1, the family and Eleanor got to have a rare, special birthday party – something that was common before COVID-19, but has become very hard to pull off with safety restrictions at homes like the LFCFL.
“It was an amazing surprise and an amazing time,” said Jeanne Karp. “We had been able to see her by appointment outside, but that didn’t work very well because we had to be six feet apart couldn’t hear very well outside. She was so excited to have a real celebration and see family and have so many call in to talk to her online. It was a special time.”
When asked the secret to her longevity, Eleanor is very matter of fact.
“Who would ever have expected me to live to 106?” she asked. “Yet here I am!”