Community Voices

Korge matriarch celebrates 100th birthday with family, friends

Josephine Korge, 100, surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Josephine Korge, 100, surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

If love truly makes the world go ’round, Josephine Arden Korge discovered that secret of life early on.

It’s her 100th birthday week — she was born Feb. 7, 1918, in Lawrence, New York — and as family and friends are quick to say, she has lived life with love.

At least 50 are flying in to celebrate with cake, a dinner, and a Mass with reception at St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church, the church she helped found with her husband and 12 other families of Lebanese descent.

“She is clearly a great example for us on how important it was to give back and to have a sense of duty and love toward the community,” said her son, attorney Chris Korge.

Josephine Korge graduated from St. Mary’s, a Catholic women’s college in Ohio, with a degree in chemistry and went to work with the Sperry Gyroscope Company. She was part of the development of the Norden bombsight, the precision aeronautical instrument that helped the U.S. and its allies win the Second World War.

“Her generation saved the world,” Chris Korge said.

Afterwards, she moved to Miami, and met and married war veteran George Joseph Korge. He died 31 years ago, but she still lives in the Roads-area house they bought in 1957.

“Christmas was always fun for them,” said another son, attorney Tom Korge. “My dad was obsessed with Christmas and he had a big Nativity scene in the front yard. He even set up music for it.”

“My parents embraced people of all faiths and cultures,” Chris Korge said. “The guys who built our Nativity scene were gay, I realized later. My parents treated all people with respect.”

Josephine Korge sent her three sons and daughter, Kathy, to Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School, in a parish the family were members of until 1977. They then joined the new St. Jude on Brickell Avenue, the church they had helped support.

Josephine Korge was president of the church’s Lady’s Guild and was a founding member of the feast of St. Jude’s annual festival, which “to this day is still a major church event,” said family friend John Kiskinis, president of Kiskinis Communications. She also was extremely active with her husband in all of Congressman Dante B. Fascell’s campaigns, he said.

She’s been like a second mother to him, Kiskinis said, and to so many others.

“I’ve been attending school and been close friends with Andrew Korge, Josephine’s youngest, since second grade — including high school and college. We are now 57 so I figure I’ve known her for about 50 years!”

For Chris Korge, his mother saved him.

“I have a reading disability and she never gave up. She was very tenacious and found out that it was caused by a simple problem with moving my eyes. She found me the right kind of help and it made all the difference in my ability to advance in my life,” he said.

“I used to bring her flowers when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. I picked them for her from around the neighborhood and she was extremely happy. The neighbors didn’t mind, but I don’t think my arrangements were that good.”

Tom Korge said his mother “taught me practically everything about being a good person.”

“She taught me about being a great example, like my father. She held us to a higher standard. She is the foundation of our family,” he said.

Josephine Korge served in many leadership positions throughout her life including being president of Bethany‘s House, an agency for social services for women, children and families.

Family friend Kiskinis said she also served on the board of directors and chaired the board for Catholic Charities, an organization that helps the poorest and most vulnerable. And she was an active member of the Miami Junior Woman’s Club and the Miami Woman’s Club with a focus on promoting civic involvement. She was a volunteer guide at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens for more than 20 years.

Chris Korge and his two daughters have made a 30-page hardcover book with pictures and stories about his mother’s life that they will present to her for her birthday. She has 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

While her energy is limited now, Josephine Korge tells family members that the greatest accomplishment in her life has been raising her children.

“All you had to do to make my mom happy was to call her. When we were growing up she’d tell us to call collect and to find a payphone,” Tom Korge said. “I call her on my way to work every day just to talk about the day’s events.”

“We’ve been blessed,” he said. “She’s loved us a lot.”

A city proclamation will be given to Josephine Korge after the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church, 126 SE 15th Rd. Chris Korge said everyone who knows his mom is invited to join the family in celebrating her 100 years.

Romantic Valentine’s Day concert

Pianist Mia Vassilev will be accompanied by the Alhambra Orchestra’s String Quartet at a special performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave. Wine bar, chocolates and museum admission included.

Selections will include popular Latin romantic favorites and works by Bach, Schumann and Piazzola. There are a limited number of tickets and sales end Tuesday. Price is $25-$35. Call 305-603-8067 or go to https://www.heartstrings2018.eventbrite.com.

How to avoid being hacked

The Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland Pinecrest will host computer instructor Joan Nurse at the next breakfast meeting, at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Dadeland Marriott Hotel, 9090 S. Dadeland Blvd. Nurse will discuss the Android and iPhone systems. Everyone is welcome to attend. Contact Eric Gressman at 786-239-0701, ekg@miamidade.gov, or Ron Lieberman at 305-613-6744, miamilawyr@gmail.com.

Members of the club live and/or work in the Kendall/Pinecrest area. The group meets from 7:30-8:30 a.m. the second Tuesday of every month, with speakers and networking opportunities.

Tropical tree talk

Brett Jestrow, Herbarium Curator at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, will be the guest speaker at the next Tropical Flowering Tree Society gathering at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Garden’s Corbin Building, 10901 Old Cutler Rd. Enter at the South Gate. Monthly meetings include speakers, rare flowering tree auctions, a bloom table, and refreshments. Visitors are welcome at no cost. For more call 305-389-5404, or visit http://www.tfts.org/.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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