Murray Shusterman began practicing law in 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House - and he hasn't stopped working since.
Today, at age 101, he travels each day from his Bala Cynwyd home to his Center City office at Fox Rothschild, where his work has focused on corporate and real estate law.
"What? Retire? Sit in a rocking chair and wait to die?" Shusterman said in an interview. "All my life I've been active."
The price of longevity, Shusterman said, is that the people you love disappear. All his oldest, dearest friends are gone. Their spouses too. And his brother and two sisters.
His wife of 65 years, Judith, died in 2005. Choosing her casket was a trauma.
So what keeps him going through the trials of aging and into work each morning?
"Stubbornness," said Philadelphia architect and attorney Robert Shusterman, 72, one of Shusterman's three sons. "He keeps pushing himself as hard as he can, and tries not to complain about things. He has a determination, a will to overcome impediments."
"I did all the good things and all the bad things that a young fellow does," Shusterman said. "Except I had wonderful parents, and they gave me a sense of morality and generosity, and I've always acted accordingly."
Only 54,956 people in the United States are 100 or older, according to Census statistics. That's 0.0002 of the population. By comparison, people 65 and older account for 13 percent of all Americans.
Centenarians as a group are overwhelmingly female (82 percent), usually white (83 percent), and increasingly urban. Their numbers are growing, up two-thirds between 1980 and 2010.
His involvement in Jewish causes ran deep, as chairman of the city chapter of Friends of Ben Gurion University, and in leadership positions at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia and the local affiliate of International B'nai B'rith.
He's journeyed beyond the average 77-year life expectancy of American men. But he doesn't fear death. He's planned his funeral and picked a coffin, not wanting his sons to bear that duty.
Pressed to name the best moment of his life, and the worst, Shusterman declined to do either.
"There's no such thing," he said. "A person has many experiences over time, some good, some bad. . . . The real secret is to be decent, to be fair, and to be forgiving - now and then even a friend will do something that annoys you. And don't take yourself too seriously."
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