Leon Kaplan, who lives in the Jewish Home for Rehabilitation & Nursing in Freehold, celebrated his 100th birthday on January 7. His path toward such a long life include staying connected with others and keeping his mind engaged on such pursuits as following the stock market every day.
The skilled nursing facility held a socially distant celebration for Mr. Kaplan and his family and friends. Among his gifts were proclamations from Senator Vin Gopal and Township of Freehold Mayor Lester Preston Jr.
“Everyone loves Leon, and his bright smile just lights up a room!” Nava Gutman, director of activities at the Jewish Home, said. “He was so touched and humbled by all of the special attention for his birthday. During the celebration, he was true to form, entertaining everyone and joking that we shouldn’t worry because the first 100 years are the hardest. It gets easier from there!”
Mr. Kaplan, who was born in Bayonne on January 7, 1921, turned a childhood passion for airplanes into an early career in airport traffic control. That work and his adventurous spirit took him to Alaska, where he worked for the organization that later would be known as the Federal Aviation Administration. Mr. Kaplan earned his pilot’s license and remembers his first flight as a special moment.
He and his wife, Sarah, were married for many years; he is the father of two sons and three grandchildren. He counts President Franklin D. Roosevelt as one of his role models and says that FDR’s strong leadership, smarts, and calming presence were vitally important during a tumultuous time. To Mr. Kaplan, FDR’s speech after the attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the greatest in history.
The Jewish Home provides post-hospital care, short-term rehab, and long-term residential care. The 150-bed skilled nursing facility has a synagogue on premises, focused Jewish programming, and offers OU-certified glatt kosher cuisine.