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At 100, He's Going Strong as VA Volunteer

February 24, 1991|LINDA FELDMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Linda Feldman is a Santa Monica free-lance writer

One day awhile back, a 75-year-old war veteran from Santa Monica named Jack Kupersmith rode over to the VA Hospital in Brentwood to put in a shift as a volunteer.

That was a quarter-century ago. Kupersmith is 100 now, and when he talks of what he did in "the war," he means World War I. But he is still a volunteer at the hospital.

Nearly every day, he takes the bus to Brentwood and spends the morning distributing magazines to the patients and providing company and conversation. Last year he was awarded a plaque recognizing his more than 25,000 hours of volunteer time.

"That's what's kept me alive--otherwise I'd have to sit home and think about how long I've been married," he quips.

For the record, he and his wife, Ceil, 87, have been married for 71 years. He kids her that he might trade her in for a younger woman. She tells him that he's not exactly wired for 220 volts any more himself.

Kupersmith served in France in World War I. "But not at the front," he said, "because they divided my machine gun battalion into two groups and since I had a trade, they kept me behind the lines to build hospitals." Kupersmith was a carpenter.

After the war, he returned home to Cleveland and built houses, married and had two children, Rita and Leonard. In 1929, he and the family moved to Los Angeles and he began working for Warner Bros., building sets and furniture for the movies.

When World War II started, he wanted to give back his $25-a-month pension check and re-enlist, but was turned down because of his age. So he left the studio and went to work for the Navy building ships. They needed soundproof rooms in the submarines, and Kupersmith took the know-how he learned from movie sound stages and used it for the Navy.

The Kupersmiths' home is filled with mementos and awards. He started the first Jewish War Veteran's Post in 1940 and became the first commander of Bay Cities Post 224. He organized sending presents to youngsters at the Don Ha Orphanage in Vietnam. But his most cherished possessions are the pictures--of his eight great-grandchildren, four grandchildren and the one of his son, Leonard, in his World War II pilot uniform wearing his Distinguished Flying Cross.

Ceil Kupersmith says she still vividly remembers the day Leonard returned from the war, and now she thinks about other mothers.

"I pray every night for all the mothers whose sons are in the Persian Gulf war," she said. "God made this wonderful world and I don't understand why we can't live in harmony."

The Kupersmiths live in an apartment in Santa Monica where, with the help of WISE Senior Services, they are able to maintain their independence. In addition to providing basic help around the home, WISE provides them with transportation to doctor appointments and other services.

For more information about WISE (Westside Independent Services for the Elderly), call (213) 394-9871.

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