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| Tuesday, 20 Aug 2019
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Edith Schaffer Lederberg

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Forty years – two score out of my life that is edging up to eighty-eight years, once October has reached an approaching end.

My arrival in Florida, along with the first recorded snow in Ft. Lauderdale in January of 1977, neither was heralded by Broward County nor publicized by the media! My Husband had been transferred to the Sunshine State, and our two sons agreed to accompany him. Our recently married Daughter remained on Long Island where the majority of the relatives resided. I had no other choice but to sell the house, surrender my job as Part-Time Public Relations Consultant for the Wantagh, New York School District and relocate to the south which was foreign to my mind and heart.

As a teacher, I found my credentials lacked some Florida specifics, so I interviewed for a public relations position with the Area Agency on Aging, and was hired. That action occurred in August of 1977. Since writing and speaking were my favorite capabilities, there was a natural fit especially since seniors were the specific  population sector to be addressed, and I was extremely close to my late Grandmother who taught me to cook, be hospitable and considerate to people of all ages, and persuasions.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Broward County still maintained farms and open fields. Cows grazed on University Drive, and the aroma of bread baking in the oven, attracted drivers and strollers on busy, but not hectic by-ways. A drive, to Miami Beach, was not fearful, and restaurants, grocery and department stores abounded for the eager shopper. Too quickly, the inevitability of progress changed the scene. We endeavored to blame the builders, who overstocked the County with condos, but they were responding to a need for affordable retirement communities without placing emphasis on crowded by ways where cars soon struggled to travel in all directions.

Younger retirees, intrigued by low prices, thronged to Broward, without considering the problems of climbing to second, third, and higher building floors in elevatorless condos. I recall the exuberance of seniors, who visited my offi ce to share their newly found roles as political entities, and/or social activity organizers. They were young at heart, determined in mind, and committed toward building and maintaining organizations, comprised of elders who would support candidates who could be encouraged to mold their campaigns and deliverances to benefit the needs of their respective constituencies.

In May of 2017, one of Edith Lederberg’s Granddaughter’s, Dr. Emily Black Melson, married. Posing for a commemorative photo were Edith and her three children (from l) Peter Lederberg; Carole Lederberg Cooperman; Edith Schaffer Lederberg; and the Bride’s Father, Joel Lederberg

I spent a considerable amount of time speaking at meetings of political powerhouses, who were respected by their personal candidates, who sensed the strength of the noted individuals and as a result, lavished condo association meetings with cake, coffee, and promises. The Area Agency was allocated speaking time as part of the agenda at these gatherings. As a result, I became quite astute at dealing with the organizational leadership. Their names reside in my brain forever, and their voices, though gone from this earth, most certainly are making a positive impact in Heaven.

My time and energy were spent building positive relationships with project leadership, as well as with media representatives. In the 80’s and 90’s, a flood of small newspapers swamped the county, and eager, as well as talented reporters, like Diane Lade of the Sun Sentinel and Marsha Hallper, from the Miami Herald, always responded to my calls. Many cities had their own publications, and the Quad City News printed everything I sent. By the early part of the 21st century, computers and E-Mails destroyed too many of the local publications.

In 1986, the loss of the pioneer founder of the Area Agency, Dr. Nan S. Hutchison, dealt a tremendously negative blow to the local, state, and national aging networks. She was an highly esteemed icon whose name lives on in history. Candy Rechtschaffer, former Assistant Director, led the Area Agency for five heroic years when she helped transition the organization to a state structure under the newly formulated Department of Elder Affairs. Her role, as Executive Director, witnessed our move to a location near the Executive Airport in Ft. Lauderdale.

In August of 1986, after constant urging and complimentary encouragement from the community and Board Members, I became the Executive Director. My writing, speaking, and coordinating roles did not ebb, and a supportive staff continued to shine their light on my pathway to success. My inspiration, for over 20 years, was Mayor Vicki Coceano, from Miramar, who constantly reminded me that I wanted the job, so “Don’t complain about its headaches!” Vicki was a Board Member for two decades, served two terms as President, and spoke to me on the phone every day we both were in Broward County. I think about her early in the morning, during the day, and at night when sensible people go to sleep and dream about what could, and should be possible. Mayor Vicki Coceano made miracles materialize!

Ten years ago, in 2007, the Areawide Council on Aging opened our new home, in Sunrise. We had become an Aging and Disability Resource Center, our responsibilities had augmented, and there was a tremendous need for guidance evidenced by elders and caregivers experiencing problems with comprehending Medicaid, health insurance, and other related issues. Staff size was expanded, but adequate funding, for the new responsibilities, still was not sufficient. The building is beautiful, accessible, and a tribute to over 421,006 year-round senior residents of Broward County.

As the years passed, I became acutely aware of the trauma associated with aging, in place. Since arriving in Florida, I lost my Mother, a beloved Nephew, a favorite Niece, and most recently, my adored Brother who suffered the ills of Parkinson’s Disease. My dear Sister is an Alzheimer’s victim. Many friends have retired while others departed to gift Heaven, yet I still prefer to devote my time – energy – and creativity to benefit society.

At a family gathering in 2013, Sisters Ramona Schaffer Lobl, and Edith Schaffer Lederberg, with Brother Eugene Schaffer, enjoyed a time of togetherness and shared dreams

My dream of opening the first Gay/Lesbian/Transgender Adult Day Care Center in the world became a reality in 2002. It proudly bears the name of our late Finance Director, Noble A. McArtor.

In the early hours of any weekday, I may be found in my office writing letters, articles, and/or poetry, correcting work prepared by other staff, speaking to the best attorney in the world, Sam Goren, or just dreaming about what I’d envision in a more perfect world, if such a choice were placed in my power.

I would keep my children, grand, and great far from the inevitable pain life brings to everyone; the sustenance of nutriment and happiness would obliterate the scarcity of finances; and each day would create hope in the minds and hearts of humanity.

Hopefully, healthy todays and tomorrows will be my constant companions, and the smiles and laughter of my associates, like my Administrative Assistant, Cheryl Morrow, will continue to carry sunshine into my presence. …and may the success of my years, at the Aging and Disability Resource Center, be shared with those who made it possible and plausible, for they held my hands and followed my lead even when the future appeared to be uncertain.  

I will never forget to remember .


Edith with her grandmother


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