"We're not a bunch of sissies!" 84-year-old Celia Topol told guests at the Jewish Senior Center's "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" gala on Saturday night. " We know what's what and who's who!"
Make no mistake about it. At 84, Topol said she's as strong and sharp as ever. "The senior center has changed my life completely," she said, chatting happily before dinner at the Irvine Marriott. "It has brought me back to activities. And, for people my age, that's a big thing."
More than 400 guests had gathered on the eve of Mother's Day to celebrate the day center's fifth birthday and to watch benefactors Joyce and Tom Tucker receive its annual Jesse Award. Proceeds were estimated at a very respectable $80,000.
Keeping a fond eye on Topol, Neddy Vigman explained why she and her husband, Seymour, established the center in Garden Grove five years ago: "Our mothers and fathers took care of us when we were young, and now it's our turn to take care of them," she said.
"The elderly have diminished status in our society. Especially the well elderly. When they're sick, they usually have someone taking care of them. But when they're well, often they're sitting at home, isolated, watching television."
The center offers a full-service program four days a week. Activities include crafts, music, exercise, discussion of current events and celebrations of Jewish holidays. Participants can purchase a hot lunch for a reasonable price.
"Walking into our center is like walking into sunshine," Neddy Vigman said. "Each person--man or woman--is treated like an individual. There, being young is not the most important thing."
Vigman has a pet peeve about the way the elderly are often treated, she said. "Almost automatically, our society is geared toward youth and beauty. For example, when you're older and you're sitting in a restaurant, waiters always seem to serve the younger people first."
Not so at "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother." The 40 Senior Center participants who sat among guests were treated royally, receiving kisses and hugs from friends and large boxes of Godiva chocolates along with their formal dinners. After polishing off hunks of layered birthday cake, they settled back to listen to Topol speak of her love for the center and watch the Tuckers receive the Jesse Award. (The award is given annually to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the center. Joyce Tucker is vice president of the center and president of its women's auxiliary. Tom Tucker, a developer, is chairman of the center's long-range planning committee.)
Thanking center directors and lauding her husband's involvement, Joyce--wearing a silver-star-struck ball gown--held up a glittering wand and told guests it was a gift from her mother-in-law. "She told me if my husband doesn't say something nice about me tonight, I can turn him into a frog!"
Taking no chances, her husband of 18 years proclaimed his wife "great! A terrific person!" before thanking the center board for the award.
Singer Jerry Vale provided after-dinner entertainment. Feryne Margolin and Bobbi LeVine were co-chairwomen. Among guests: past Jesse Award recipients Charles Margolin and Pat and Marvin Weiss; Raya and Mel Jaffee; Gerald and Joan Garner, Blossom Siegel; center director Betty Benowitz; Richard LeVine; Sherry and Herbert Rettinger; Sue Stern; Nathan Rosenberg; Barbara and Bernie Steinberg; Joanne and Neil Friedman; Gerald and Joan Garner.