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Our oldest tenant turned 106

12 December 2022

On Saturday 26th November, Jewish Blind & Disabled tenant Louis (known as Lou) Freedman turned 106. He celebrated his landmark birthday at a party on Sunday afternoon organised by his family in the lounge at the JBD development where he has lived since September 2021.

Lou has one son, two grandchildren and four great grandchildren. They all live close to his new home. His granddaughter, Hazel Kaye, is the former Chief Executive of Jewish Blind & Disabled.

Lou spoke to us about his life;

“My parents were both born in Ukraine in the last 1800’s. My dad left school aged 10 as there was no education past this age for Jewish Children, and so he got a job learning a trade. Where they lived in Ukraine, all the roofs of the houses were made of metal. That’s where it all started for him, climbing the roofs as an apprentice. Can you imagine leaving school and going to work age 10 now?

My mum was from a Rabbinic family. At home everything was Kosher and very Jewish. Once my dad finished his military service in Ukraine, aged 20, he came to the UK with my mum.

I was the youngest of five children. I had two brothers and two sisters; we were all born here. My memories of my childhood are all good. I would say I had a great childhood living in Hackney with a close family. I left school at 14 to become an apprentice in my dad’s metal business. I worked there until I retired age 76. I met my wife, Charlotte (Lottie), at a dinner dance in the Strand Palace Hotel, that’s what people did in those days.

In 1940 I applied to the RAF. It took them 18 months to respond to my application. I really wanted to fly but they told me that with my skills I was more valuable to them on the ground, I never did get to fly but put my metal work skills to good use during the war.

Our son Stephen was born on Victory Day, 8th May 1945, I remember the local papers came to take photos of our VE day baby.

We lived in Ilford in a Bungalow for 68 years. I only moved out of there two years ago. Everyone knew me in the area, I spent a lot of time involved in the community and organised lots of things for older people.

I sometimes don’t know what all the fuss is about when people talk about my age. I think the secret to a long life is pure luck, its just the way things are. You can’t control these things. I know I have been very fortunate in life. I look back and life seems to have whizzed by. I wouldn’t change anything; I feel I have made the best of life. I am always busy.

I shop most days, often in the Waitrose across the road from my flat. I have started going on the JBD shopping bus once a week too. I still cook for myself. I especially like making chicken soup although my mum and wife would have probably said it’s not as good as theirs.

The biggest changes I have seen is computers. I have a computer and an iPad; I manage on them but do fight with them at times. I sometimes struggle to keep up with it all! What I don’t like is the way there seems to be no personal contact these days, you make a phone call and its all push buttons, if there’s a wrong button to push, I will push it. I do miss the person on the end of the phone.

Of all my friends I am now one of the last alive. I have had to make new friends like Gary and Yvonne who live here”.

Lou was always a keen piano player and has been entertaining fellow tenants. Earlier in the year, he jammed with Rob Rinder whose dad lives in the same development. A film of them playing together was widely shared on social media.

Speaking at his birthday tea, his son Stephen said;

“So here we are celebrating dad’s achievement of reaching 106 years of age and being able to celebrate with four generations of family. As always, dad’s nature to be independent keeps him going. Dad is always telling me; you must keep active and have interests. This seems like good advice as we get older but try to avoid becoming elderly. Let me say how much not only dad, but Eve and I, appreciate the welcome you have all given him and the many friends he has made here”

At the tea party, Jewish Blind & Disabled Chief Executive, Lisa Wimborne commented;

“What’s so special about the community in this building is how the generations come together. There is over 70 years age difference between Lou and our youngest tenant here, yet they all look out for each other and it’s wonderful to see so many of them joining Lou to celebrate his special birthday.”

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