By Jeanette Gatto, Commissioner
(April 14, 2014) – One of the joys of volunteering my time to the SIB Social Seniors Events non-profit organization was becoming acquainted with many of the men and women who made Sunny Isles Beach their home as retirees. Today’s senior residents, in essence, created the foundation for what was to become the municipality of Sunny Isles Beach. As I’ve gotten to know a few of them personally, what struck me were the rich histories and interesting backgrounds of the lives they lived prior to moving here.
Take Lola Welgram and Phyllis Talit, for example. Lola and Phyllis live in Winston Towers and are the best of friends. For about ten years I have seen them together pretty much everywhere – shopping, attending city concerts and Mt. Sinai lectures and playing bingo to name a few. So I decided to meet with them to get their story.
Lola and Phyllis moved to the area from New York City in the early 1980’s. They did not know each other prior to that, but met in a condominium in North Miami Beach. They immediately became fast friends. When Lola moved to Winston Towers in 1986 she found an available apartment in the same building for Phyllis.
It’s easy to understand why Lola and Phyllis were kindred spirits. When they met they discovered they had similar backgrounds. Both were born and raised in Poland, both experienced time in a concentration camp and both left Europe after World War II to start new lives in America. They worked and raised families for many years in New York before settling in South Florida. So when they met as retirees, it’s easy to understand why they felt like sisters.
Lola and Phyllis’ friendship is particularly heartwarming because it was cultivated later on in life. It illustrates that these kinds of friendships can be just as valuable as the long-term relationships in our lives. Both women have become incredible support systems for each other through the ups and downs that life brings at a later age. And it all started in Sunny Isles Beach almost thirty years ago.
I decided to write this story after I met up with Lola and Phyllis at a SIB Social Seniors Event held in the Commission Chambers. They were sitting together with a lifelong friend of Lola’s who was visiting from New York. Her name is Betty Kluger. I asked Lola how long she’s known Betty. She told me they have been friends since the age of six and that Betty survived a concentration camp in Auschwitz. Although that was heartbreaking to hear, it is wonderful to see that decades later these women are still going strong, and I am proud that they live in our community.
If you would like to become a member of the SIB Social Seniors Events, contact President Dennis Stubbolo at (305) 936-0986.