Sy Newman celebrates 100
By Shari Goldstein Stern
Sy Newman recently celebrated his 100th birthday with friends and neighbors at The Reserve at North Dallas.
So, what did it feel like? “It’s the same as it felt to turn 90,” he said with a hearty laugh.
He enjoyed his birthday celebration at the home he’s lived at since 2005. “I’m very excited. They treated me exquisitely. There are people who’ve lived here six years and they still call me the dancer,” he said, referring to his early career as an Arthur Murray dance instructor.
The centenarian moved into the senior community with his wife, Rhea, of blessed memory, and lived there with her until her death in 2016. “She was the most beautiful dancer you could ever see,” he reminisced. Although bittersweet, he has enjoyed being at The Reserve even without Rhea and has appreciated the neighbors around him every day who care.
Annette Silver has been a close friend of Newman’s for more than 10 years. “He’s a wonderful man. Everyone loves him. I’d do anything for him,” she said. “I’m waiting for Sy to come dance with me.”
As a child in Freeport, Long Island, Newman grew up in a kosher home, went to synagogue and Hebrew school and became a bar mitzvah. His dad owned a deli. “I had violin lessons from the time I was five until I was 22. I practiced three times every day. I was the student conductor of my high school orchestra. I gave three solos at my high school graduation,” he recalled.
After high school, Newman joined the United States Air Force and was able to finish college while there. The gregarious 100-year-old said, “I wanted to be a pilot but that didn’t happen.” He graduated from the New York University School of Music.
Newman likes to talk about his three careers. In the 1940s, Newman started a lengthy career with Arthur Murray, and purchased his own studio in 1949. “I ran a good studio. Then I bought a studio in Oklahoma City and Rhea ran it. We were a good team.”
Next, Newman sold apparel for Howard Wolff, traveled for the company and worked for 13 years at the Apparel Mart. During that time, Rhea took up painting, became an artist and started helping other artists get started. “When she started in the gallery business, I left Howard Wolff and joined her. We opened two galleries in Dallas. Again, we were a great team.”
While Rhea was alive, the couple would cut the rug to standing ovations and applause when The Reserve brought in dance bands to entertain residents.
“The people who work here are wonderful. I know them all and they all know me.”
He often tells his friends that he doesn’t have any family, but those who love him say that is simply not true. He has a family of at least 200.