Meet Gerri Miras

Gerri Miras celebrated her 95th birthday on March 5 with a party attended by a small group of friends at the Esplanade where she’s been living for the past eight years. Erica Lively, one of her young friends, provided a lunch composed of Gerri’s favorite foods including sparkling cider, oysters, shrimp, paté, olives and cheese with a dessert of petit fours.

Geraldine Jaffe Miras grew up in the Bronx. Her parents had emigrated from Lithuania around 1920. Her father painted lettering on awnings. She remembers at four going around looking at his work. “It’s how I learned to read,” she says. As a child, Gerri studied the piano. “I’m never without a piano. I play Mozart, Beethoven, the classics.” Her older brother Edwin joined the Merchant Marines at 18. While his ship was traveling off the coast of Argentina in 1940, it was torpedoed and he was killed, a loss that affected Gerri deeply.

Gerri earned a degree in English from Hunter College and after graduation worked at a photography studio. Her mother encouraged her to consider teaching. She started as a substitute art teacher at a junior high at 120 Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem, soon joining the faculty and later becoming an assistant superintendent. It was here she met her husband Charlie who was teaching social studies. He had earned his PhD in Paris after the war. When he returned to the States, he moved to Shanks Village, living in a Quonset hut among other WWII veterans. He then bought property on Fern Road in Palisades where he built a home. After he and Gerri married in the Palisades Presbyterian Church, they moved here. Charlie became ill six years later and Gerri took an early retirement to care for him. She was determined to stay involved in education; running for the school board, she was elected for five three-year terms. Charlie died twelve years after they had married. Gerri served for a term on the Library board and was a member of the search committee for a new director.

Gerri has lots of interests. She enjoys reading and has a standing game of Scrabble at the Esplanade. She was a tennis player until the age of 92 when her doctor put a stop to it. “Fifty years of playing tennis has kept me agile,” she says. She loves opera. For many years she had a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera. She listens to opera on WQXR every Saturday when there’s a live performance. Gerri is mad about traveling. “I used to go to Europe each summer then I decided to try Asia.” She fell in love with China and returned seven times. “You can’t do the whole country in three weeks,” she comments. Her travels there inspired her to study Mandarin and renewed her interest in photography.

Who is Gerri Miras? She’s a bright, knowledgeable, constantly interested and interesting woman who has had a full life. She is still up for anything. “I heard they’re starting bridge lessons here. I intend to sign up,” she says.