Alice Herz-Sommer — Pianist and Holocaust survivor, 107 years old
Alice was born in Prague in 1903, Austria-Hungary, along with her twin sister Mariana. She married musician Leopold Sommer in 1931 and had a son, Raphael (1937-2001). After the invasion of Czechoslovakia, most of her family and friends emigrated to Palestine via Romania, including Max Brod and brother-in-law Felix Weltsch, but Herz-Sommer stayed in Prague. In 1942, her ill mother Sophie was killed. A year later, Herz-Sommer, her husband and son were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Herz-Sommer played at music concerts in the camp along with other musicians. Leopold was later sent to Auschwitz and though he survived the camp, died at Dachau in 1944. After the Soviet liberation of Theresienstadt in 1945, Herz-Sommer emigrated to Palestine to be reunited with her family. She lived in Israel until emigrating to London, United Kingdom with her son, an accomplished cellist, in 1986.
Herz-Sommer swam daily until the age of 97. At 104, Herz-Sommer published a bestselling book A Garden of Eden in Hell recalling the events of the concentration camps. In 2010, a television programme was aired on BBC4 to recognise her life story. Herz-Sommer attributes her longevity to her optimism.
Judge Wesley E. Brown — U.S. District Court Judge, 103 years old
Wesley Ernest Brown was born June 22, 1907 and is a U.S. District Court judge who, as of 2010, is the oldest federal judge still hearing cases.
Brown was born in Hutchinson, Kansas to Morrison (Morey) Houston Heady Brown and Julia Elizabeth Wesley Brown.He received his LL.B. from the Kansas City School of Law in 1933. He was in private practice in Hutchinson from 1933 to 1944, including a stint as county attorney for Reno County, Kansas, from 1935 to 1939. From 1942 to 1944, he was the secretary of corporation and attorney for Aircraft Woodwork Manufacturers. He entered the United States Navy in 1944, becoming a Lieutenant and serving until 1946. He then returned to private practice in Hutchinson until 1958. From 1958 to 1962, he was a Referee in Bankruptcy for the United States District Court for the District of Kansas.
On March 8, 1962, President John F. Kennedy nominated Brown to a seat on the Federal District Court for Kansas vacated by Delmas C. Hill. Brown was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 2, 1962, and received his commission two days later. He served as chief judge from 1971 to 1977, and assumed senior status on September 1, 1979, but continues to hear cases to this day!
Lina Haag – WWII Resistance Fighter, 102 years old
Lina Haag was born on 18 January 1907 in Gschwend, Germany, and is a former member of the Youth movement of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the small Württemberg town of Schwäbisch Gmünd in the 1920s. In 1927, she married fellow Communist Alfred Haag. Alfred was a member of the regional Parliament for the KPD until Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. Both he and Lina were arrested and spent many years in prisons and concentration camps. Both Haags showed extraordinary strength of spirit during their incarcerations. Lina spent many years in Remand Prison, during which time she met other prominent prisoners such as Liselotte Herrmann. Lina was freed in 1938 after managing to turn her camp commandant at Lichtenburg against the Stuttgart Gestapo.
Once released, she was reunited with her daughter, moved to Berlin, and secured a job. She visited the headquarters of the SS almost daily to petition for her husband’s release. In 1940, she obtained permission for an audience with Heinrich Himmler, who secured Alfred’s release from the Mauthausen concentration camp. Alfred survived physical torture while detained there and also at Dachau concentration camp. Alfred was soon drafted into the army and sent to the Eastern Front, and Lina and their daughter were bombed out of their home in Berlin. Lina was transferred to work in a hospital in Garmisch. While there, she wrote a memoir of her experiences in the form of an extended letter to Alfred, not knowing if she would ever see him again. The letter was eventually published in 1947 as A Handful of Dust or How Long the Night. Alfred was taken prisoner by the Red Army and eventually released in 1948. The Haags lived in Munich until Alfred’s death in 1982. In 2007, Lina was given the Dachau Award for Courage. She continues to live in Munich.
Manoel de Oliveira – Portugese Film Director, 101 years old
Manuel de Oliveira was born in Porto, Portugal on December 11, 1908, to Francisco José de Oliveira and Cândida Ferreira Pinto. His family were wealthy industrialists and agricultural landowners.Manoel de Oliveira attended school in Galicia, Spain and his goal, as a teenager, was to become an actor. He enrolled in Italian film-maker Rino Lupo’s acting school at age 20, but later changed his mind when he saw Walther Ruttmann’s documentary Berlin: Symphony of a City. This prompted him to direct his first film, also a documentary, titled Douro, Faina Fluvial (1931). He also has the distinction of having acted in the second Portuguese sound film, A Canção de Lisboa (1933). Manoel de Oliveira was chosen to give the welcoming speech at Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting with representatives of the Portuguese cultural world on 12 May 2010 at the Belém Cultural Center. In the speech, titled “Religion and Art”, he said that morality and art may well have derived from the religious attempt at “a explanation of the existence of human beings” with regard to their “concrete insertion in the Cosmos”. The arts “have always been strictly linked to religions” and Christianity has been “prodigal in artistic expressions”. In an interview published the day before, Oliveira, who was raised a Catholic, said that, “doubts or not, the religious aspect of life has always accompanied me,” and added, “All my films are religious.”
He has not stopped making films, making over 12 films since the year 2000 and having another film that is currently in production!
Oscar Niemeyer – Brazilian architect, 103 years old
Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (born December 15, 1907) is a Brazilian centenarian architect specializing in international modern architecture. He is a pioneer in exploring the formal possibilities of reinforced concrete solely for their aesthetic impact.
His buildings are often characterized by being spacious and exposed, mixing volumes and empty space to create unconventional patterns and often propped up by pilotis. Both lauded and criticized for being a “sculptor of monuments”, he has been praised for being a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supporters. His works include public buildings designed for the city of Brasília, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City (with others).
In 2002, at 95 the Oscar Niemeyer Museum complex was inaugurated in the city of Curitiba, Paraná. The building is locally known as “Niemeyer’s Eye”.
In 2003, at 96, Niemeyer was called to design the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in Hyde Park London, a gallery that each year invites a famous architect who has never previously built in the UK, to design this temporary structure. A publication of Niemeyer’s structure called Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003 was published by Trolley Books later that year, ISBN 9781904563136.
In 2004, Niemeyer, at 97 designed the tombstone for Communist Carlos Marighella in Salvador da Bahia, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of his death. He was widowed after 76 years of marriage to Annita, Annita died at 93 years old. Also his brother Paulo Niemeyer died.
In 2005, at 98, a entitled “ESTAÇÃO CIÊNCIA, CULTURA e ARTES” was approved to be built at João Pessoa, the easternmost point of the Americas.
In 2006, Niemeyer at the age of 99 wed longtime aide Vera Lucia Cabreira. They married at his apartment in Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema district a month after fracturing his hip in a fall.
2007 saw Niemeyer turn 100 and still involved in diverse projects, mainly sculptures and readjustments of old works of his that, protected by national (and some cases international) historic heritage regulations, can only be modified by him. He is currently designing a statue showing a tiger with its mouth open and a man fighting it raising the Cuban flag against the US blockade of Cuba.On Niemeyer’s 100th birthday, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship.
In April 2008, the building of one of his biggest European projects started in the Principality of Asturias, Spain. As a thanks for the Prince of Asturias Award received in 1989, his design of a cultural center was donated to Asturias. The “International Cultural Centre Óscar Niemeyer” (also known as Centro Niemeyer), will be located in Avilés, Asturias (North Spain). These modern buildings were described by himself as “a big square open to all men and women of the world, a big loge between the river and the ancient town”.
The Holoteca, a library specialized on consciousness and the paranormal, in the Cognopolis neighborhood of Iguassu Falls is one of his latest projects.
In December 2008 Niemeyer celebrated his 101st birthday, and he keeps working every day at his office in Rio de Janeiro, with on going projects in Brazil and Spain. His secret is how passionate he is about architecture and women, and he has devoted his life to both.
In December 2009 Niemeyer celebrated his 102nd birthday. He celebrated it with family and friends. He said to AFP ‘turning 102 is crap.’
Elliot Carter — American classical composer, 101 years old
Elliot Carter is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer born and living in New York City. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1930s, and then returned to the United States. After a neoclassical phase, he went on to write atonal, rhythmically complex music. His compositions, which have been performed all over the world, include orchestral and chamber music as well as solo instrumental and vocal works.
He has been extremely productive in his latter years, publishing more than 40 works between the ages of 90 and 100, and three more since he turned 100.
Norman Corwin – American producer, writer, and lecturer, 100 years old
Corwin was among the first producers to regularly use entertainment—even light entertainment—to tackle serious social issues. In this area he was a peer of Orson Welles and William N. Robson, and an inspiration to other later radio/TV writers such as Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Norman Lear, J. Michael Straczynski and Yuri Rasovsky. Corwin has won the One World Award, two Peabody Medals, an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a duPont-Columbia Award; he was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay for Lust for Life (1956). On May 12, 1990 Corwin received an Honorary Doctorate from Lincoln College. In 1996 he received the Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from California Lutheran University. Corwin was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1993. A documentary film on Corwin’s life, A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin won an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Feature) in 2006. Les Guthman’s feature documentary on Mr. Corwin’s career, Corwin aired on PBS in the 1990s. He was inducted into the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Diamond Circle in 1994.
During the 1990s, Corwin returned to radio drama, producing a series of radio plays for National Public Radio. He currently lectures at USC as a visiting professor and is also on the Advisory Board of the National Audio Theatre Festival.