Is it luck? Or in her genes? On March 25th Chilly Revich celebrated her 101st birthday. Here she reflects on the blessings of family and a long life, lived well.
Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s genes, sometimes it’s a combination of all that and more. What it takes, exactly, to live to 101, with good health, a sharp mind and happiness has, according to Chilly Revich, more to do with the people in your life than anything else.
On March 25th, Chilly celebrated her 101st birthday, with 35 women at the home of niece Florine Mark dishing about Chilly over lunch. Born in Fort William, Ontario, Canada, Chilly has lived in metro Detroit since 1924. She married Marvin, and they raised two children, Rosanne Kukes, 64 and Ira Revich, 63. Chilly now resides at the Hechtman Apartments on the Eugene & Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus in West Bloomfield, which is one of many residences and services offered by Jewish Senior Life.
Here’s what Chilly has to say about longevity, life and the secrets to her success.
Although she swears there is no “secret” to her long life, Chilly admits family has a lot to do with it. She has four grandchildren (two are married) and three great-grandchildren. “I live on account of my family and that’s it. I mean it.”
Rosanne jumps in. “My mother got married late in life. She always said, ‘I hope to live until I see my daughter marry…’”
“And the bar mitzvahs,” Chilly interrupts.
“Then it was to see the bar mitzvahs of our kids,” Rosanne says. “Then it was to see their weddings …”
She kept her mind sharp by working until the age of 90 and kept her body fit by exercising and not eating a lot of meat or fried foods. Chilly shakes her head in disgust. “Everything was broiled,” she says.
On giving back
People walk through the door, and Chilly stops to talk. She asks about their families.
Chilly worked for most of her life, offered assistance to her niece, Florine Mark, (President and CEO of The WW Group, the leading Weight Watchers franchise; and a Federation Board Officer ) with starting her business and worked with another family member, Sidney H. Grossberg, Ph.D, at Counseling Associates. She originally went to help when an employee was away and ended up staying for 28 years.
When she wasn’t working, Chilly volunteered with the Sinai Guild. People asked because they knew she’d help. “She was reliable,” says Rosanne.
Chilly grew up in an Orthodox home and raised her children in a kosher home with regular synagogue attendance. She guided her family to live a balanced, Jewish life.
“She is a positive influence on my children and provided them with a work ethic unlike anybody,” says Tom Kukes, Chilly’s son-in-law. “It’s beyond normal. She showed up to work because she had a responsibility and that taught my children a very valuable lesson. She is the best mother-in-law!”
The phone call ends, and Chilly asks, “What did he say about me?!”
He said you have a strong work ethic which was a great influence on your grandchildren.
She and Rosanne nod.
When asked about her mother’s legacy, Rosanne replies, “She’s a very good listener. I still call her with my problems, and she listens. She’s patient. She doesn’t judge. She sees people for who they are.”
“It’s true,” Chilly says.
Her children, grandchildren, and other relatives agree Chilly has always been there whenever they needed her, without question. She babysat the grandchildren so her children could take vacation. The grandchildren still call, regularly.
In fact, the whole family calls Chilly for advice – nieces, nephews, grandchildren, cousins. They visit. They trust her. They rely on her wisdom and insight.
“My mother taught us that we could do whatever we wanted,” Rosanne says. “She was always encouraging and positive, so you’d want to do whatever was in front of you, you were inspired to improve.”
On Jewish values
The family comes together for every holiday. It left an impression on everyone present, those born into the clan and those who married in.
Living at Hechtman, Chilly loves the sense of community and camaraderie among residents, staff and family members
“She’s well-liked and everyone just loves her here,” says Rosanne.
“This is a good place for Jewish people,” echoes Chilly.
A resident walks by and Chilly stops to talk with her. Being Jewish, they say, is about community. It’s about being there for others in their time of need. It’s about reverence and elevating moments by paying attention and listening well. It’s about focus, about legacy, about telling the stories that will be repeated among the generations.
And Chilly Revich is a great example of what it means to be Jewish in metro Detroit.