After 106 years of living independently, including on her own since 1980, Eleanore Rubinstein moved into The Rose Schnitzer Manor at Cedar Sinai Park last year — and, unlike some seniors who might resist such change, she loved it.
Then again, it's what you would expect from "a wonderful lady who enjoyed life to its fullest," her daughter said.
"She was blessed to be where she was and be able to do what she did," said Diane Koopman, the youngest of Rubinstein's four children. "She saw people up till the very end."
Rubinstein died Nov. 8 at age 107, not from old age or COVID-19, Koopman said, but complications of bladder surgeries. In a time when many older folks die alone in a hospital, friends and family gathered around Rubinstein at Koopman's home home for her final moments.
"She probably would still be around if she didn't have the operations at the end," Koopman said. "She ended up in the hospital and had bladder operations. She came home, talked to us, and three days later with everybody in from California and everybody around her … she was ready.
"She knew everything was slowing down. She couldn't knit anymore; her arm was arthritic. She loved to read, and did jigsaw puzzles and played lots of cards to the end."
A memorial was held for Rubinstein Nov. 10. The family picked 25 people to attend the memorial, per COVID-19 rules, and "every single one of them had something on that she had knitted," Koopman said.
Although not a public figure, Rubinstein stood tall as a pillar of the community, simply being and seeing many things over the years. She was a truly nice person, and the writer of this story can attest to her character and personality. The Tribune visited with Rubinstein during her reign as a two-time U.S. Tennis Association champion of the 90s women's division in 2004. Then, when Rubinstein turned 100 in 2013, the Tribune documented her life in another story.
An excerpt from the 2013 story:
"She still drives her trusty Lexus SUV, golfs in warm weather, travels by herself, lives alone in Southwest Portland, lunch-dates nearly every day, knits constantly, exercises in the pool, plays bridge whenever possible and remains as sharp as anybody 50 years old.
Only, Eleanore Rubinstein turns 50 times two on April 23 (2013).
Even she can't explain it. How can somebody reach 100 years of age, and feel the same every day, while everybody around her succumbs to Father Time?
'I'm lucky,' she said. 'When you feel good, life goes along beautifully. I can't take credit for that. Your life's not your own.'"
Today, Koopman fondly recalls her mother.
"She's with my dad and grandparents now," she said. "My kids all play tennis, and she watched them till the very end. She wore a bathing suit until 105. She drove until 101 1/2. … (At Rose Schnitzer) she played bridge, and she loved the food that they served. She didn't lack for somebody to go see her there. We took her out two to three times a week. … She still had a dog, (dachshund) Sophie, who's 13 and living with friends.
"She was full of fun. She was an amazing woman to say the least. Just so happy and positive."
"ABZGAL" read the vanity license plate on her Lexus.
Rubinstein moved to Portland from New York City at age 7 in 1920. She graduated from Grant High School in 1931, and attended the University of Washington, married Paul Rubinstein in 1933 and lived in Aberdeen, Washington, until relocating to Portland in 1960.
She lived in the same house in Southwest Portland for about 60 years, even after her husband's sudden death on the tennis court in 1980.
Another excerpt from the 2013 story:
"She lived through World War I, the Roaring '20s, the Great Depression, World War II, the space-age era of the 1950s, the counterculture of the 1960s, the internet and technology revolution of the past 30 years, the turn of the century and plenty of Seattle Mariners' losses. And, clarity and wit remain to talk about it.
So, what's the secret?
'There isn't one,' she said. 'Just good luck. I stay up late, going to bed at midnight. I eat everything I want.
'I love cheese. And, I have scotch and soda in the winter, and vodka and whatever in the summer. But, no soda. ...
Being an only child, Rubinstein always relished her independence. She saw friends using walkers and wheelchairs and admitted, 'it'll come for me, like everything else. My balance isn't great.'
But, 'it'll be good. Like everything else, I'll take it. I'm always planning for what's coming next.'"
So, life went according to plan for Eleanore Rubinstein — all 107 years of it.
Buried with her are a USTA national tournament champion "gold ball" necklace — Koopman has the other one — as well as a golf club, tennis ball, knitting needles, a book and stationery.
"She wrote letters to anybody who had sent her a card through the end," Koopman said. "She loved to thank people for doing anything for her. And, she never forgot a birthday of anybody in the family."
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