Community Voices

After nearly 75 years, old friends go lunching in Miami Beach

Celebrating their birthdays together again are childhood friends Ann Bussel and Carole Langer, in front, and standing left to right, Cynthia Zaret, Sylvia “Sissi” Feltman, Diane Camber, Inez Lesser, Barbara Rosen and Barbara Katzen.
Celebrating their birthdays together again are childhood friends Ann Bussel and Carole Langer, in front, and standing left to right, Cynthia Zaret, Sylvia “Sissi” Feltman, Diane Camber, Inez Lesser, Barbara Rosen and Barbara Katzen. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Eight school friends met for lunch recently. They haven’t seen each other in class for a long time, but they have always kept in touch — for about 75 years.

Ann Bussel, Carole Langer, Cynthia Zaret, Sylvia “Sissi” Feltman, Diane W. Camber, Inez Lesser, Barbara Rosen and Barbara Katzen grew up in the 1940s. They met at North Beach Elementary School when Miami Beach was a small town. They went through a lot together, including being children during World War II.

The lunch was to celebrate all of their 82nd birthdays, though it was the actual birthday of Camber on Aug. 15. The birthday of twins Cynthia Zaret and Inez Lesser would be later in the week, Camber said.

“My good friend Ann Bussel asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I said, ‘How about getting all the girls together from elementary school?’ She made all the calls and organized it. Ann was the Paul Revere of the group,” Camber said.

Camber said she first met everyone when she came to the school in third grade.

“This gathering took us back to our days at North Beach Elementary School and our childhood growing up on Miami Beach in the 1940s — a special place then and now,” she said. “The happiest part for me was taking count of the enduring friendships of this group of wonderful women. That was the best birthday gift!”

Barbara Katzen said the longtime friends have lived in the Miami area all these years and have remained in touch.

“Who said everyone living in Miami is a newcomer? Miami Beach was a small town before and during the second World War and the North Beach area was just developing. So friendships were made that lasted a lifetime,” she said.

“Despite the fact that some of us had not seen each other in many years and our lives were very different, friendships were renewed the moment we saw each other. Old memories flowed from our lips and names of long-forgotten teachers were remembered. All those attending wanted to meet again. The ‘birthday girl’ had recently lost her husband, so this reunion lifted her spirits and made us all happy to be together with old friends,” Katzen said.

For Feltman, the 82nd birthday celebration brought together the eight friends, “who met as young children while attending the neighborhood elementary school and then moving on to junior high and senior high school together.”

As they shared their memories they realized that their families were the foundation of the future Miami Beach as the businesspersons, developers, bankers, hoteliers, professional, and cultural leaders of that time, she said.

The friends experienced the influx of solders during World War II and the ending of the war with peacetime to follow, Feltman said. And they were fortunate to grow up and attend high school during a very peaceful time in America’s history.

Most of their children remained in Miami, but their grandchildren have moved away, Feltman said. “Miami and Miami Beach have changed through the years, but these friendships have lasted a lifetime.”

LEARN ABOUT THE KAMPONG

“A New Era at The Kampong — Respecting Our Heritage, While Growing into the Future. Repairing, Renewing, and Respecting a Grand Old Property” is the topic of Craig Morrell’s talk at the upcoming Tropical Flowering Tree Society meeting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd. in the Corbin Building next to the Garden House. Enter at the South Gate.

Morrell is the interim director and curator of Living Collections at The Kampong of The National Tropical Botanical Garden.

The tree society meets on the second Monday of the month at Fairchild. Programs include speakers, rare flowering tree auctions, a bloom table, and refreshments. Visitors are welcome at no cost and you can become a member for $30 a year. For more, call 305-389-5404, or check out www.tfts.org.

GOOD DEEDS

Congratulations to members of the Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland-Pinecrest for their delivery of 45 backpacks for needy students at Palmetto Middle School. The donation was made possible with a matching grant from Rotary District 6990.

The bags were filled with school supplies and a school sweatshirt. Howard Horowitz, Katrinka Cox, Tom Boswell and David Cox helped fill the bags and Boswell delivered them to Palmetto Middle School Counselor Ivette Toledo, said artist Ilajean Horwitz who is active with the group.

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

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