“When you reach the age of 100, suddenly, even if you did nothing notable, you are a celebrity. Friends, even longtime ones, neighbors and strangers look at you differently. You see and feel it. When perfect strangers find out, they shake your hand, as if, by osmosis, you can transfer the secrets of long life to them.”
“Keep Breathing: Recollections from a 103-year-old,” by Morrie Markoff
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The Ballerina was my first metal sculpture. In the 1960s, I was inspired while fixing a part in the toilet in the Los Angeles appliance store I co-owned.
It looked like a ballerina tutu and so I pulled out my machinist tools and created this sculpture. I didn’t have a background in art, I was a trained machinist turned vacuum salesman and entrepreneur. Over the years I created many sculptures, then one day I stopped. At the age of 100, after a chance meeting at a bus stop, I was offered my first gallery showing. Now, I am working on a memoir of my life, from New York tenements to the Los Angeles condo I live in with my wife of more than 75 years, Betty. Now, at the age of 103, I have finished my memoirs and am working on getting them published.
All told, I produced about 30 pieces, one-figured to six. Many I have given away to family and friends, and one, at the urging of Betty, I sold, which I now regret. It was a school scene of children sitting at their desks in various poses, one of the first I attempted with four figures.
It had been exhibited in a city art show at Barnsdall Park with a N.F.S. tag on it (not for sale). When I went to pick it up, two women were waiting for me. They had fallen in love with it and wanted to buy it. I said no. Leaving me their phone number, in case I changed my mind, we parted. Arriving at home, Betty asked me how the show went.
I told her two women who fell in love with the school scene offered me $100 for it. Betty said, “make them happy, sell it to them, you can make another.”
My guess is that it took eight hours to make. When I sold it, I used that money to buy a new acetylene welding set.
Unthinking, I said sure, I called them. They came, paid me the money, and with my sculpture lovingly locked into one of their hands, left smiling, like I like to see customers leave.
I never sold another. I am working on getting a museum to obtain my collection. Considering my age, I hope they respond fast.
I never strived to achieve the major milestones in my life from a gallery showing at age 100 to my diamond anniversary, but people seem to think I have some advice for them.
The title of my memoir is the only advice I have for anyone wishing to reach 100 years old.
Good Luck and Keep Breathing
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Click on an image to read letters I received from the White House: