Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

 

Next Saturday, October 7, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the U-T will host its 10th annual Successful Aging Expo, its biggest ever. I’ll be presenting there at 9:15 am and hanging out at my booth from 10 am till 4 pm. I’d love to meet you at the Expo.

Honoring this celebration of age, let us now praise famous men and woman who, full of 70 or more years, have achieved magnificently:

Journalist Roy Rowan has written, “My heroes are the two Pablos – Picasso and Casals — who pursued their painting and cello playing well into their nineties; not the corporate titans whose golden parachutes landed them safely within gated communities for unbroken days of golf, bridge and sunsets seen through martini glasses.”

A young reporter once asked one of those Pablos, Pablo Casals, “Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist who ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?”
The renowned musician answered: “Because I think I’m making progress.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was is generally regarded as one of the most outstanding justices in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was known as the Great Dissenter because he disagreed with the other judges so much. Holmes sat on the Supreme Court until he was 91. Two years later, President Franklin Roosevelt visited him and found him reading Plato. “Why?” FDR asked.
“To improve my mind,” Holmes replied.

In the golden sunset of his life, financier Bernard Baruch told a reporter that he intended to learn to speak fluent Greek by the end of the year.
“Mr. Baruch,” asked the reporter. “You’re 95 years old. Why would you want to speak Greek now?”
“It’s now or never,” explained Baruch.

When the artist Francisco Goya was 80, he drew an ancient man propped on two sticks with a great mass of white hair and a full beard. To the portrait he added this inscription: “I am still learning.” Similarly, the great Michelangelo was carving the Rondanini Pieta just before he died at 89. Throughout his life he proclaimed, “I am still learning.”

Anna Mary Robertson was the classic late bloomer. When her fingers became too stiff for embroidering, she started painting in her late 70s. Under the name Grandma Moses, she had her first one-woman exhibit when she was 80 and painted some 1,600 works to wide acclaim before dying at age 101.

Also at the age of 80, Jessica Tandy won an Oscar as Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in “Driving Miss Daisy.” At 82, Ruth Gordon won an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy for her role in Taxi, 10 years after her Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in “Rosemary’s Baby.”

In 2010, comedienne Betty White became, at age 88, the most chronologically gifted person to ever host “Saturday Night Live.” Her appearance on the show garnered the best ratings in 18 months. When asked if there was anything left in show business she still wanted to do, Betty White replied, “Robert Redford.”

When she was 79 years old, Grace Hopper was elevated to rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, the first woman to hold that rank.

Golda Meir became Israel’s first female Prime Minister at 71. Elizabeth II, 91, has been Queen of the United Kingdom since 1952. She has surpassed the length of reign of Queen Victoria, who sat on the throne for 63 years until her death at the age of 82.

In 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. In 1998, after serving 24 years in the Senate, Glenn, at age 77, lifted off for a second space flight 36 years after his first mission. His nine-day journey as by far the oldest ever astronaut was designed to study the effects of space flight on the elderly.

Ronald Reagan became president of the United States at the age of 69, one month short of his 70th birthday. He left the presidency just shy of 78. In a televised presidential debate against his considerably younger opponent, Walter Mondale, Reagan quipped, “I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
This past January 20, Donald Trump ascended to the presidency eight months older than did Reagan.