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Continuing My Life Story: Gigi B

Where were you born, Gigi?
I was born in Burlington, Vermont on July 1, 1923. My dad was a farmer and horticulturalist. He managed English Garden estates and we lived on them on Long Island. Back in those days, they called it the Gold Coast of Long Island because it was where all the millionaires lived!

Being raised by a horticulturalist, you must know a lot about flowers.

No, I’m terrible!  I admire the beauty and talent, and I find it very peaceful to walk among gardens. But I am an athlete, performer, and a writer-reporter.

What a fascinating mix – an athlete, performer, and writer-reporter. How did you discover your unique story?
Everybody has a story. Mine happens to be interesting because I’ve done so many darn things. I call it divine intervention; it’s as though someone has always told me, “This is what you have to do,” and I’ve done it!

You say you’ve experienced miracles in your life. What are your miracles?
My miracles were marrying my husband, Bob, and having two wonderful children. Now I have a beautiful family including three great grandchildren.

How did you meet your husband, Bob?
I met my husband Bob in high school when I was 15 years old. He was an athlete, and I was an athlete. We had a lot in common. I was involved in student government. Bob was the quiet one who got things done. I was the loud one!  Bob volunteered for the Marines and was in the Marine Corps for 4 years. He came home and we married. We had a son, Bob and a daughter, Nancy.

One of your passions is sports. What are your favorite sports?
I was on the field hockey, basketball, and tennis teams in high school.  Finally, I took up golf when I was 70! I never had a lesson. People on the practice range would see my frustration, and they came over to teach me. Then I joined the 9-holers group -- we played half the 18-hole course. I won a couple of championships and went up to the 18-holers. I quit when I was 90 but I kept my honor!

What do you love about sports?
It’s not the competition. It’s the skill and being able to do something well. You don’t have to overthink it; it can come naturally to you, or you can work hard at it. I love college football and college basketball. I love watching the noise and hearing the excitement. They’re not earning millions of dollars; they’re doing it because they love the game. You become a fan. I watch the pros occasionally, but I really love the college kids!

What are some of your favorite teams?
I love UConn – both men’s and women’s basketball. Their head coach is Luigi "Geno" Auriemma. The women’s basketball team won their first national championship during the 1994-1995 season, and they took off! They became the top basketball team in the nation. I love the Boston Red Sox. In football, I love Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

We have a group here at Anthology – we watch sports in the movie theater after dinner. We either watch it in the dining room or in the theatre. The theatre here is really luxurious.

I hear you have basketball moves. What basketball fundamentals did you like to teach over the years?
At my late age, I’d get out on the driveway with my grandson Michael and shoot baskets with him. You need to learn the basics, for example, how to pass the ball. If you want to bounce the ball with your right hand, you must be just as adept with your left. You need to watch what your opposition is doing. You need to have court vision. Keep bouncing the ball!

Switching gears to another one of your passions -- when did you discover your dream of being a performer?
As a teenager, I always dreamed I would be on Broadway in a musical comedy. I practiced and practiced in front of a mirror with the record-player playing. I had a very dear friend who was a dancer; she taught me how to do the Charleston and soft-shoe dance -- it’s a rhythm tap dance that doesn’t require tap shoes. My friend was a Broadway dancer in the 1920s and we ended up forming a cabaret act around it.

While raising your children, Bob and Nancy, you became a sportswriter and reporter.  Can you tell us about that?
I followed sports – especially high school sports -- when my kids were growing up.

I went to see the editor of the local paper in Huntington Long Island and I told him, “You could increase your readership and revenue if you added a sports column to your paper.”

When the editor and athletes recognized I could write a story that was colorful and accurate, I had a job. But, I was in a man’s world. At first, coaches didn’t even want to look at me, like, “What does a woman know about sports?” They soon learned.

After that, I became a sportswriter for 20 years. I was one of the first women in the United States who had a column in the newspaper.  I helped break the glass ceiling for other women to do it. 

You are also an avid reader, regularly tearing out stories from the newspaper and taking action upon them. Can you tell us about that?
I pull articles out of newspapers and magazines and hold onto them, never knowing what I’ll need them for. I don’t know what drives me to do it, but I do. I collect stories that I feel might someday involve me.

There was one special newspaper story that spoke to you. What was it?
I saw a photo – full page – in Newsday.  A boy named Minh was pictured on the streets of Vietnam; he was a child of the Vietnam War living on the streets, selling paper flowers. It appeared on a full page of the newspaper. Hundreds of letters poured in, saying they wanted to help this young man. During every war, no matter when and where, children are always left behind, and he was one of them. I said, “We need to help him right now!”

I was in touch with the government of Vietnam and a representative of the United Nations. For 50 years the two countries were at odds, and this was a time when two countries came together, allowing 4,000 kids including Minh to come to the country of their fathers. The story will be included in a book. I was never obnoxious, never wanted to be, never meant to be, but I had a point to make. I appealed to people’s senses and their hearts to help others.

You must be a very caring and courageous person.

I care about people. I’ve been involved in a lot of emotional things in my life.  Big things always kind of fell into my pathway.

How do you continue to nurture that spark within yourself here at Anthology?
The residents all care about each other. We’re like one big family. We worry and wonder about each other. I can’t imagine a better place; it’s just wonderful. Thanks to the community’s good, hard work during the pandemic, they kept us safe. With hundreds of people in this building every day, we had a wonderful record. Our executive director, Sandy, did a marvelous job keeping us safe.

And if something ever bothers us here, we tell them. The same things in here as we do on the outside--we’re just the messengers to make any place better. If we don’t like something, we get together and decide we’re going to make a change. We try to lead without being obnoxious. That spark has never quieted in me.

You’re 98. What is your secret to life?
I’ve had a whole world of different interests – arts, science, sports. The one thing that keeps me going is that I’ve been curious all my life. If I see someone doing something interesting, I want to learn how they do it.

I look at success and help create it. In life, I think we all have a message to share. I believe my life has all been planned, with mistakes, and fun things, and honors. Sometimes you ask yourself, why me? Each day we wake up with something new!