Margot Ross, born 3/25/1913
When I first met Margot Ross and discovered that she was 107 years old, I thought I heard her wrong. She appears to be in her 80’s! She still walks up and down the steps to her bedroom each day, has an excellent memory, a sharp wit and loves to talk and reminisce about her life. I will do my best to put her life as she tells it down on paper so that everyone reading can be as touched as I was after meeting such an extraordinary woman.
Margot was born in 1913 as Margot Neuwirth. She had a sister Lily and after her parents split, she moved into her grandparents home with her Mom and sister. Her German roots run deep and she told a story of her Great Grandfather, who hid from Napolean’s army in a wine barrel. She lived through both great wars and as a teenager protested against the Hitler regime. She was an avid downhill skier and often skied the Alps given they were so close to Munich. As a matter of fact, she sadly remembers the day she took off her skis for the last time in St. Moritz at the young age of 81 due to a bad knee that she later had replaced at age 90! At the time of her knee replacement in 2003, she was the oldest person to have this surgery.
In her early 20’s in Frankfurt, she met her husband, Frank Ross. Frank was born in 1898 in Frankfurt, Germany, and was 15 years her senior. He was a talented artist to the dismay of his family because they wanted him to take over the family textile business. For two years, he served in WW I in Russia, returned to Germany where he met Margot and then in 1935, Margot followed him to Positano, Italy where he joined an artist colony that led to a one-man art show in New York City in the late 1930’s. Given the unrest in Europe during this period, his move came at a perfect time for the young couple. Frank, who passed away in 1992, often told the story of his first voyage to NYC where he traveled first class and had the pleasure of meeting Franklin Roosevelt’s mother.
Margot shortly thereafter joined Frank in New York City where he continued his art study and career. She remembers reading paperback novels before her voyage in English to teach herself the language and during her early years in the US, Margot was often using words that had a romantic slant in her dialect. This resulted in a running joke with her friends.
Margot and Frank married on May 13, 1940 after one earlier failed attempt of marriage due to the laws of New York in that era requiring a period of time that one cannot marry after being divorced (Frank was divorced). Margot fondly remembers having the marriage celebration anyway and then having another one on the day they actually did marry. In 1943, their first child Frances was born and then later in 1948, their second daughter, Bonnie was born.
Upon becoming parents, Frank and Margot decided they needed a second source of reliable income, other than his paintings. Frank reconnected with his family business because his parents had passed and he began to design sketches for the textile business that he and his sister inherited. His intricate designs were a big success and he and Margot both worked in textile and clothing design for decades in addition to creating his art. While raising two daughters, Margot worked and designed a line of what she called “spectator sport wear” or in today’s world, casual wear. A head for business is one of the things that has kept Margot’s mind so sharp and one of the things that she dearly misses is reading the New York Times each morning and following the activity in the stock market. Macular degeneration has impaired her vision to the point that she can no longer read. Additionally, she has fragile skin, but amazingly remains in good health, particularly for her age.
Margot pictured with her daughter Bonnie at her Long Island Home on July 4th, 2020.
In 1950, Margot and Frank purchased a home on Long Island that she still owns today. She summers on the island with her daughter Bonnie, and son in law, Russ Walker, who live in Georgia and was planning on returning to her beloved home 2 days after our interview. Enjoying her time with her daughter at the Long Island home is very enjoyable for Margot. Unfortunately, Margot’s summer visit has been delayed this year due to COVID-19, but she gets a twinkle in her eye each time she talks about her beautiful home on the island. She described the homestead to me in vivid detail, from the construction, the views and even the flowers and is eagerly waiting to see her home again. The view from her front porch looks over the sound and you can see Connecticut on a clear day. When not in Long Island, she resides with her daughter and son in law in their Georgia home, and has an amazing caregiver, Robin Pressley, with Synergy HomeCare.
Margot pictured with her daughter Bonnie and son in law Russ
When I asked Margot about her favorite memories, she said skiing with her children in St. Moritz and traveling the world with her husband topped the list. Margot’s favorite food memory is the Hasen Braten and Stolten that her Mom and Grandmother used to cook. To this day, she still has family in Germany, with descendants from her sister Lily, including a nephew and grand nephews in Munich. She also fondly remembers St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, where she and her sister would put their shoes out in hopes they would be filled with treats. Also, Margot loved getting dressed up at Christmas and going on an excursion such as the Zoo with her Granddad, and then returning to a fully decorated Christmas tree and gifts under the tree. Unfortunately, Margot’s oldest daughter Frances, passed away in 1997 from breast cancer but she is fortunate to have her daughter, Bonnie as well as her two grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, who do a wonderful job helping care for her.
Margot pictured with her Synergy caregiver, Robin Pressley and Synergy Co-Owner, Sue McCormick
Synergy HomeCare has had the distinct pleasure of caring for Margot Ross over the last year and we are honored to be able to spend time with such an amazing woman. Thank you to both Margot and her daughter, Bonnie for giving us this opportunity and we wish the best to Margot on her trip back to her beloved home on Long Island. In closing, I’ve quoted George Jung — ‘May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face. And may the wings of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.’