“It never occurred to me that I would live this long,” she said in a 2012 interview. “I just went on and on, and I’ve loved it.”
Goldie Michelson was the oldest person in the U.S. when she died on July 9, 2016, just a month short of her 114th birthday in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she lived all of her life.
A delightful, dedicated Jewish woman, she was the leading member of Worcester’s Jewish community. “Name a Jewish women’s organization – and I was its chairman!” she exclaimed with a chuckle. She had been active in Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women, as well as in community groups, including one that supported new immigrants, mostly Jews.
Whenever new Russian immigrants arrived in Worcester, Goldie Michelson helped welcome them. Sima Kustanovich, a 67-year old Jewish woman who arrived from Russia in 1979, recalled her and Goldie’s meeting with nostalgia.
“Goldie was the first person who spoke to me in English, even though I didn’t know it at all. She did amazing things to help me many times in my life. Our close relationship was more than friendship – she was like family to me.” Kustanovich also talked about “amazing Goldie’s” good sense of humor, sensitivity and open-mindedness.
Goldie Corash was born in 1902 in Yelisavetgrad (now Kirovohrad), when Russia was a Czarist Empire. By order of Czar Nicholas I, the oldest sons of Jewish families were drafted into the armed forces for twenty-five years.
Goldie’s father, Max Corash, a Jewish doctor, was the oldest son in his family and faced conscription. Thus, he left Russia for the United States, and found a haven in Worcester, Massachusetts. After he managed to find housing for his family, he sent for his wife and children to join him. Goldie was two years old.
Growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts, twenty-year-old Goldie not only attended college, she also pursued a Masters degree, most unusual for women at the time. Her thesis was titled “A Citizenship Survey of Worcester Jewry,” which examined why many of the city’s older Jewish immigrants did not pursue American citizenship or even strive to learn English.
Goldie became a teacher of Jewish education and directed plays at a local synagogue. Her husband, David Michelson, passed away in 1974. She lived an active Jewish life, directing a Purim play when she was over 100.
Five years ago Sima Kustanovich asked her: “Aren’t you bored being home all of the time?” Goldie replied: “It’s funny; I’m never bored. I have so many things to remember.”