In addition to speaking with Louise, I was also able to speak to a close friend of hers, who said many wonderful things about her. He said that although Louise never had her own children, she always helped others. She and her husband were wonderful, gracious people. In particular, they treated their employees--many of whom were immigrants—like family.

“I was born in Orange, NJ. My family moved around a lot. As a child I had bad asthma so they advised my parents to take me to Buffalo, NY. That climate didn’t help so I went to California to live with an aunt and uncle for a year. Then my entire family moved to the West Coast. This was before WWII. I went to a teacher’s college but didn’t want to teach, so I went to work in our family bookstores. I stayed in California and met my husband Bob there after he had returned from the war. One of my uncles was involved in breaking codes during WWII.

After we were married, Bob and I both worked in the family bookstores and then in various bookstores throughout the U.S. We had no children. Eventually we got into the business end of bookselling and began to train people to run bookstores. We finally ended up in New York at Simon and Schuster. I eventually became an operations supervisor, and was in the book business until I retired. Working in the publishing business could be very glamorous. One time I met with the Kennedys. Every year there was a grand and glorious one-week book conference in Washington. We met with a lot of big wigs in D.C. who would wine and dine us. I had a rich business life and still write to many of the people I worked with. It’s a close club. For a time my husband and I owned a bookstore called Paper Editions. We hired many immigrants that other people would not hire, and it was a great experience. It is hard for me to accept the changes in publishing today, such as reading books on electronic devices.

I saw some amazing things in my lifetime. I saw the Hindenburg go up in smoke.

I am interested in a lot of different faiths. I had two uncles who were priests. I have friends of different faiths and we all love each other and have stayed connected for many years.

I now live in a senior community. You ask if it was hard for me to adjust? No, I just said hello! I enjoy living there and participate in all of the activities they have to offer. But I sometimes feel like the people are cliquey and don’t want to learn anything new. I do have one close friend there who also loves to read. I still have many old friends I keep up with, although quite a few are younger than me. I am also considered the world’s champion sender of greeting cards!

My health is fine, although I lost my driver’s license after I passed out at the wheel last Christmas. I was out early doing Christmas shopping and fell asleep at the wheel as I approached my street. Suddenly a policeman appeared. He said ‘where did you think you were going? Are you aware of the damage you just did?’ I awoke to realize I had knocked down several trees and poles.

Looking back at my life, I wish I had spent more time doing theater. I did a lot of acting in small theaters but not on a big scale. I loved the theater people; they were so interesting.
When I lived in San Francisco I worked for a year with a troupe in Fisherman’s Wharf. I remember being in an English play because I had to put on different accents. But I couldn’t continue because work intervened. I also enjoyed writing about the theater. I still like to sing and dance, have fun. Most important to me now in my life is being able to make people happy. That is my joy. I love children especially; there are many children who call me aunt.

What surprises me most about growing older, is that you may want to be one thing but people want you to be another. They sometimes act like you can’t walk and will pull you along as though you aren’t capable. If you offer to do something for someone they will say ‘no, you sit still.’ One of the hardest things about aging is knowing that you are not walking or talking the way you used to. Sometimes you think you missed something because you didn’t have your finger in the pie when you should have. Or you put things off and then you realize it’s too late to do them. Sometimes you try to do something and when people find out how old you are, they say well, sorry you are too old. For example I wanted to work with children. You want to be helpful but they don’t want you to help them.

How is the world now as opposed to 50 years ago? It’s different all right. I hate the fact that people shun other people because they are of a different ilk. I think it happens more now. I think in the past people took others more for what they were, were more accepting. When the war started, everyone in my neighborhood did something to help somebody. My father was a great gardener and he would offer vegetables to everyone.

One of the most important things I have learned in my lifetime is that you should see everybody as individuals, not put them in a category together. You must share with other people who need what you have and treat people with respect so that they never feel like they are less than you.”

Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax for this exhibition.