Iris Goldstein takes life on — and on and on
Photos: Courtesy Iris Goldstein
In April 2023, Iris Goldstein reached a bucket-list goal and enjoyed a hike at Big Bend. “You only get one life,” she says.

By Deb Silverthorn

Iris Goldstein is the personification of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Climb ev’ry mountain, search high and low, follow every highway, every path you know.” The 80-years-young Pittsburgh-to-Plano transplant is living her best life, enjoying the brightest days and, indeed, following every path she knows — and dozens more she’s just uncovering.

“You only get one life,” said Iris, just back from a 12-mile weekend hike. “One and you can’t waste it.”

Born Iris Hoffman to Rae and Joseph, of blessed memory, she is the sister of Allen (Laverne), Shirley (Bill, of blessed memory) Brand and Miriam, of blessed memory. Iris’ father passed away when she was just 2; the children were inspired by their mother to never give up, to always work hard and to appreciate life.

When she was 5, Iris was sent to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, a Monday-to-Friday boarding school where her profound hearing loss could be supported. When she was 11, she was enrolled in public school, unfortunately without accommodations. Yet, difficult times provided her strength the rest of her life.

“I was a very good lip reader, even as a very young child, but my family didn’t know sign language. We just made it work. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve learned to adapt all my life. Now I can’t hear anything at all, but I don’t miss much,” she said with her ever-present smile and positive spirit.

Iris met her husband, Morton, of blessed memory, when they were just 11. He was hard of hearing but didn’t know how to sign and their teachers thought they should be friends. While he went to Gallaudet University, she worked as a payroll clerk and they exchanged letters before becoming engaged in 1964. Three years later they were married. Until he passed away in 2020, their life was one adventure, one blessing, after another.

They became the parents of two daughters — Rachel (Earl) Bloom, who lives in Plano, and Alison (Richard Lewis) Goldstein, who lives in Greece. There are five grandchildren: Ryan, Evan and Justin Pearlman and Oliver and Isabelle Lewis.

“We honeymooned in the Poconos and then moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where we both worked for the Navy. I was a typist and he worked in the mailroom. We moved back to Pittsburgh. He worked for the post office for 35 years and I was a stay-at-home mom,” said Iris.

There’s little about “stay-at-home” that has ever defined Iris. She was cookie sales chair for her daughters’ Girl Scout troops and she had a Pittsburgh Press newspaper route.

After Morton retired, the couple moved to Texas in 2003, taking their roles as Bubbe and Zayde very seriously. Together they attended programs and ran carpool for their local grandsons, the pride within them growing every day.

“I still go to the house and help Rachel. I do the laundry, I shop for her, I do the errands,” said Iris. “Why would I ever just sit at home?”

“Sitting” isn’t something Iris does much of, other than to take in a good book. She enjoys bungee exercise classes, speed cycling, stretching and going to the gym whenever she can, convincing Rachel to join her. Rachel is a triathlete herself but she’s not always able to keep up with her mother.

“My Mom doesn’t stop, ever. She’s younger than I am for the strength and spirit she has. Really, she’s the example we all should live. Nothing stops her; it never has,” said Rachel.

Iris enjoys services with her family, attending Congregation Anshai Torah, but misses having her husband by her side. Still, she says she uses her eyes to watch the goings-on and enjoys community togetherness.

The pandemic stopped millions but not Iris. She sent her girls a photo of her on a hot-air balloon in New Mexico, without having mentioned her planned road trip. During Passover, she went hiking with friends to Big Bend, bringing her grandfather’s matzo cover and a full Seder spread of chopped liver, brisket, matzo ball soup and more.

“I slept on the air mattress while the ‘kids’ slept on the bunks,” she laughed.

Last summer she visited her family in Greece and then went on to Rome. While the family rested in the afternoon, Iris kept on sightseeing. Then there was the late-night karaoke bar trip to Waco, cheering at her grandson’s football games and “lots more no one knows about,” Iris giggles.

Iris Goldstein and her daughter Rachel Bloom at a bungee workout — one of umpteen sorts of exercise the 80-years-young Plano resident enjoys

When she’s not upside-down or otherwise getting her pulse pumping, Iris is bettering the lives of others. On the weekends, she attends a social group for deaf people, bringing along a couple of friends who, without her, couldn’t physically make the trek.

“Iris lives each day to the fullest, with the vigor of the Energizer Bunny, always giving her time to friends, family and needy causes. She’s a true role model to everyone who meets her,” said her son-in-law Earl.

Iris teaches American Sign Language, often accompanied by her daughter, to residents and caregivers at assisted living facilities. She mentors a young deaf lady, adopted from Africa by hearing missionaries and drives her around when necessary. When the woman’s bike was stolen, Iris replaced it.

Next month, Iris is taking an Alaskan cruise and going dog-sledding. “Why not? I always have the most positive spirit because that’s what life’s about,” she said. 

She wants to be sure that message is heard loud and clear.

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