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Upper West Sider and Broadway Buff Celebrates 105th Birthday

By Emily Frost | February 13, 2013 7:33am

UPPER WEST SIDE — For nearly twenty years, at the Hamilton Senior Center, Upper West Sider Shirley Herskowitz was the woman to see if you wanted tickets to a Broadway show for less than $2 — good seats, too.

Herskowitz turned 105 on Sunday and celebrated her birthday Tuesday with cake, balloons and a serenade at Club 76 on West 76th Street thanks to the  Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA).

She was surrounded by friends and joined by her daughter Phyllis.  

"Have you got any tickets?" joked her friend Elaine Habib at the party. Many of those gathered joined Habib in remarking on Herskowitz's decades of daily outreach to Broadway producers to get the best show tickets. 

Herskowitz had to give up her volunteer work as a liaison between producers and the community at age 99 when she broke her hip. 

Herskowitz now has 24-hour caretakers at the apartment at the Lincoln Towers complex she's lived in for forty some years. 

She hardly ever misses a visit for lunch at the club and the chance to sit next to one of her best friends, Michael Gertne, 68. 

"She's robbing the cradle," joked Gertne, who said the two loved to talk about history, especially American history. "She likes to tell jokes and she's fun," he said. 

Herskowitz also enjoys keeping up on current affairs, requesting the news be read to her each morning from several different newspapers.

Stu Lahn, 72, is another admirer. "She's just great. I go over and say hello every morning. She always has a smile — a beautiful smile. She brightens my day."

Her daughter Phyllis described her mother, who has grown a little softer spoken in recent years, as incredibly social, a trait which served her well in her forty years as an elementary school teacher, first in Brooklyn and then in Harlem. 

"I love the children," said Herskowitz, who said her favorite subjects to teach were "reading, writing and arithmetic."

Herskowitz is from Brooklyn and one of ten children. Two of her sisters, both in their nineties are still alive and her brothers lived into their 80s and 90s said Phyllis, which she said gave her great confidence about her own longevity. 

"She's never been ill. She's never been depressed. Who knows what role genes play?" said Phyllis.