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She’s 100 years young — and the stories she can tell about Miami

Now a centenarian, Emma Watunya-Flink was 80 when she and her late husband Harry Flink posed for this photo in 1999.
Now a centenarian, Emma Watunya-Flink was 80 when she and her late husband Harry Flink posed for this photo in 1999.

Cutler Bay resident Emma Watunya-Flink was born March 15, 1919. She turned 100 on Friday and her family members are sharing stories of Emma’s life.

Emma was born in Wilpen, Pennsylvania. Her parents came to America from a small village in Eastern Europe and settled in southwestern Pennsylvania. Emma’s father worked in the coal mines and died at age 45 of black lung disease.

The family had eight children, including Emma. When she went to school for first grade, Emma could not speak English. Her parents spoke their native Slavic language at home.

She spent her summer vacation teaching herself English and from second grade on she was a good student. She graduated from St. Claire High School in 1938 and decided to be a nurse. She loved nursing school and nursing and she got a job out of school at Warren Hospital in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. She also fell in love with her neighbor Janek. He sold Schrafft’s candy for a living.

Their families were from neighboring villages in the Old Country, but they met in Pennsylvania. Emma and Janek were a couple for a few years before he joined the Air Force and was sent to Homestead Air Force Base.

Her girlfriends told Emma she was crazy to love long distance, so when she was 23 she moved to Miami. It was the early 1940s, and she and Janek got married. She got a job at Miami City Hospital, now Jackson Memorial Hospital, and worked in the tuberculosis unit for nine years.

Emma and Janek rented a house in Miami for $15 a month and she thought they were being “ripped off.” Sadly, after five years of marriage, Janek died of leukemia. Emma was just 30.

But then she met Harry Flink, who had two daughters from a previous marriage: Maria, 6, and Annette, 4. Emma and Harry married almost two years later and had two children, Michael and Joan.

Emma and Harry raised their four children while living on Southwest 52nd Avenue in Miami in a two-bedroom, one-bath house that cost $10,000. Emma wondered how they would afford the $28-a-month mortgage.

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Emma Watunya-Flink celebrates her 90th birthday 10 years ago. On Friday, she turned 100.

Harry was a bartender and he worked at the Domino Lounge on Miami Beach. He drove six days a week to and from Surfside for more than 23 years. Emma went back to work at a nursing home and then at a hospital on Southwest Eighth Street. She retired at 65.

Emma and Harry were married for 57 years. He died in 2007 at age 91. There are eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

Family members, including son Mike Flink and daughters Joan Lamm, Annette Lamm and Maria Madigan, have many stories to share about Emma. She loved to make fudge and cookies. And whenever she hosted a dinner, she always made a lot of main dishes so that everyone could eat their favorite food. That’s love.

Happy 100th Birthday, Emma!

Calling Beach High 1949 grads

The 70th high school reunion is being planned for the Miami Beach Senior High School Class of 1949.

Organizers are hoping to spread the word of a reunion cruise on April 17 hosted by two classmates, Herb and Arlene Buchwald.

The cruise on the Midnight Sun will leave from Baker’s Haulover at 11 a.m. So far, 30 alums are scheduled to attend.

An organizer, Hannah Diamond Lipton, can answer questions and help with booking information. Email her at hliptonrealtor@bellsouth.net or call her at 305-937-7007.

“We sent out ‘save the date’ emails, but we know many of our alumni did not get them. We are hoping the public can help us locate our classmates,” Lipton said. “Most of us are now 86 to 89 years old. We would love to make sure everyone knows about the reunion.”

Congratulations

The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami has announced the appointment of five-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist and 2019 NEA Jazz Master Maria Schneider as artistic director of the Frost School’s Henry Mancini Institute. Shelton G. Berg, dean of Frost School of Music, and Stephen James Guerra Jr., managing director of the Henry Mancini Institute, made the announcement.

Schneider attended the Frost School of Music in 1983.

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Maria Schneider Whit Lane University of Miami Frost School of Music

“I am thrilled to welcome Maria Schneider back to our Frost family as artistic director of the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra,” Berg said. “This is truly a match made in music heaven. Not only is Maria a multi-Grammy winner, NEA Master and one of the most celebrated composers of our time, she is a trailblazing advocate for music industry rights and education. We look forward to the brilliance she will bring to our school and students.”

To launch the association, a concert with VIP reception is scheduled for April 5. Details at www.Frost.Miami.edu.

Underwater photo contest

The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is accepting entries for its annual Underwater Photography Contest. The deadline for submissions is noon, Eastern Time, April 5. A panel of professional photographers and marine scientists will judge the contest.

The five categories are fish or marine animal portrait, macro, wide angle, University of Miami student, and best overall image. Bill Gallwey generously supports the competition. The contest is open to all amateurs who earn no more than 20 percent of their income from photography.

Photos must not have been published or accepted for publication and must be the original work of the submitter. No pool or aquarium shots will be accepted. The winners will be announced at the Rosenstiel School’s Sea Secrets Lecture Series April 30.

To view past winners, rules, and entry form, visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.

Free Beethoven concert

Orchestra Miami will present a free concert featuring an all-Beethoven program at 8 p.m. March 22 at Pinecrest Gardens Banyan Bowl, 11000 SW 57th Ave.

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German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven. AP

The event will include excerpts from Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio,” with soprano soloists Laura Pedersen and Jennifer Tipton, and tenor Matthew Mannes.

The 38 musicians of Orchestra Miami, led by Artistic Director Elaine Rinaldi, also will perform Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55. There is free parking and stadium-style seating.

Organizers ask that you do not bring outside food into the Garden. Snacks and beverages are available for purchase.

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