Community Voices

Married 69 years, Richmond Heights couple still cooks on 1950 stove

Queen Ester Armstrong cooks on a 64-year-old O'Keefe and Merritt gas stove as her husband Samuel D. Armstrong Sr. stands by, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, at their home in Richmond Heights.
Queen Ester Armstrong cooks on a 64-year-old O'Keefe and Merritt gas stove as her husband Samuel D. Armstrong Sr. stands by, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, at their home in Richmond Heights. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Sam Armstrong says that when he moved his young family into the Liberty Square Housing Projects in the late 1940s, “I told myself … when I move from this project, I will have my own house.”

But in those days, for many blacks, owning their own home was a far-fetched dream. Armstrong kept on dreaming. “Then, Frank Martin decided to build houses for black veterans. I went down in Richmond Heights to look at the homes, and that did it. We paid $25 down and waited until they built our house.”

A new house meant new appliances and furniture. Armstrong and his wife, Queen Esther, didn’t know how they were going to furnish the new home with all the things they would need.

One day, while listening to the radio, there was a Name That Tune contest going on a local station. Armstrong won and asked the sponsors to keep his new stove until the house was finished being built. They did.

That was 64 years ago. Today, the 1950 stove still works, just as it did more than six decades ago, Queen Esther said.

Armstrong will celebrate his 90th birthday on Saturday. And the five Armstrong children, who range in age from 68 to 58, will cook his birthday dinner on that stove.

On Thanksgiving, the 64-year-old stove will show what it can do as the family prepares a lavish dinner, complete with roasted turkey and “all the trimmings,” Queen Esther said.

She mentioned the trimmings: collard greens, mac and cheese, candied yams, corn on the cob, okra and tomatoes, pigeon peas and rice, baked ham.

“Ham, too?” I said.

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Everybody knows you need more than one meat at Thanksgiving.” My mouth started to water, as she went on to mention the sweet potato pies and homemade pound cakes for dessert.

“Everything will be cooked on my stove, but I won’t be working this year. I’ve cooked so much over the years, I’m letting the children do the cooking this year,” said Queen Esther, 87.

Queen Esther said the stove works “just like it did when it was new. It never had a major breakdown — just a few adjustments here and there over the years.”

The Armstrongs have been married 69 years. “It was God who has kept us all these years,” Queen Esther said. “I still drive and I am a prayer warrior in my church and serve on a lot of the boards in the church, including the mothers board. My husband still sings in the choir.”

“I give God the thanks and glory for our life together. We weren’t professional people — I was a school secretary and my husband was a truck driver — but all our children finished college.”

Queen Esther and Sam Armstrong have more than 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. “We just thank God for all he has done,” Queen Esther Armstrong said.

PHILANTHROPY DAY AWARD WINNERS

It gives me great pleasure to announce the 2014 Philanthropy Day award winners, which include David Lawrence Jr., my friend and former publisher of the Miami Herald who received the Outstanding Volunteer Award.

The other honorees: Sonja Zuckerman, Lifetime Achievement Award; and Jorge Perez, Outstanding Philanthropist Award.

Darlene Hanes was honored with the Julia Tuttle Award for Community Involvement and Corporate Citizenship on behalf of Macy’s, where she is executive vice president and regional director. Javier Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation, accepted the Outstanding Grant Maker Award on behalf of the organization

Chapter past President Sallie Byrd, presented the Joyce Galya Scholarship to Leana Cianfoni, assistant director of annual giving at University of Miami.

The awards were presented recently at a luncheon attended by 500 guests at Jungle Island.

The Miami chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals initiated the first National Philanthropy Day event back in 1985. Since then, more than 50,000 people from 130 countries around the world participate in National Philanthropy Day celebrations. To learn more about National Philanthropy Day and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, visit: www.afpmiami.org.

AMERICAN JEWRY

So many of us, myself included, have always thought that American Jewry goes back only to 17th century New York.

But according to folklore scholar and expert Annette B. Fromm of Florida International University, the starting point of Jews in the United States may very well be the Southwest in the 15th century. Fromm will present a lecture at 7 p.m. Monday at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, 301 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.

The topic: “Material Evidence of Crypto-Jews in the American Southwest.” In her talk, Fromm will trace what she believes to be the route of Sephardic Jews who fled Spain and Portugal after the Inquisition, eventually coming to America.

The lecture is part of the Mondays at the Museum series. Admission is $10 for the public, $5 for museum members and free for students with valid ID. Call 786-972-3175 or email the museum at info@jewishmuseum.com for more information.

FIU JEWISH HUMOR SERIES

Florida International University’s Jewish Humor series will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, with Eddy Portnoy, a scholar of Jewish popular culture at Rutgers University. He will speak on the topic, “Laughter is Healthy: The Yiddish Origins of Jewish Humor.”

Other speakers on the topic of humor will be: Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, co-editor of The Big Book of Jewish Humor. On Dec. 28, he will discuss, “Beyond Laughter Through Tears: A Short History of Jewish Humor.” On Jan.18, Ruth Wisse will speak on the topic “When Should I Stop Laughing? Reflections on Jewish Humor.” Wisse is a research professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard University.

All lectures will be at the museum. The talks are free for museum members, $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and $12 for families. For groups of 20 or more with reservations, the admission is $5 per person, and free for museum members. The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is at 301 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach. Call 786-972-3175 for more information.

HOLIDAY CONCERT IN PINECREST

The Alhambra Orchestra and Pinecrest Gardens will present a holiday concert, “A Dance Celebration,” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov.30 at the Banyan Bowl, 11000 Red. Rd. in Pinecrest.

Timothy Shade, conductor of the Alhambra Orchestra, will present a program to feature Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Strauss’ Radetzky March, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.5 and lots more.

There will also be medleys of favorite holiday tunes and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. This is a concert for the entire family. Tickets are $10 for adults at the door and $5 for children. Parking is free. Tickets are also available in Pinecrest Gardens from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the Farmers’ Market, on the day of the concert.

Large groups should call in advance at 305-668-9260 or Pinecrest Gardens at 305-669-6990.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email bea.hines@gmail.com. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.

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