Forest Hills man credits marriage for longevity

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Bob Schreibman, 91, met his wife when he was 17.
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Bob Schreibman (second r.) receives a gift from nuBest Salon & Spa. He is surrounded by fellow book participants (l.-r.) Grace Louis, Marion Glasserow and Gladys McConnell.
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Bob Schreibman, 91, holds of photo of himself and his late wife Marjorie. Schreibman describes his 66-year marriage in a book envisioned by North Shore-LIJ Medical Center geriatrician Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein.

Forest Hills resident Bob Schreibman said he is not sure how he is still ticking at 91 years old, but he thinks the answer may lie in the 66-year-old marriage he had with his wife, Marjorie.

Schreibman, a former firefighter who still drives, mostly to his volunteer job at the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation in Port Washington, was one of five geriatric patients at Long Island Jewish Medical Center who shared stories about their marriages Tuesday to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

“We’re all different people, we all have different stories, but somewhere in that story is probably the reason for the longevity,” the 91-year-old said. “You can’t pin it down.”

The stories will be part of a book, “I Do,” the brainchild of geriatrician Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein.

The Forest Hills resident met his wife, Marjorie, at a Halloween party in 1937, when he was 17 and she was 16.

“I thought [the party] was a silly thing to do and I refused to go to the Halloween celebration because I didn’t have someone to go with,” Schreibman said.

But Schreibman decided to go to the party and the couple eventually got married and gave birth to a son, which led to a grandson and two great-grandchildren.

Marjorie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1999 and died in November 2007.

“Seventy years later [from the first date] on Halloween night, she passed away in my arms,” Schreibman said.

His wife’s battle with the disease led him to volunteer at the Long island Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Schreibman, who said writing is one of his passions, said the project was a bittersweet experience.

“It stirs up memories that you don’t want to stir up. I’m very emotional about this,” he said. “You really have to treasure [it] when you open your eyes in the morning and your spouse is there smiling.”

Wolf-Klein, who has worked for LIJ since 1976 and is the program director of the hospital’s geriatric program and director of geriatric education, said listening to her patients is what led her to start the book project.

“It came to my attention that these people were not just coming to me with their illness, they were coming to me with their lives,” she said.

And while her patients were aging, a part of them was not, Wolf-Klein said.

“That was the love they had for their spouses,” she said. “They were willing to share their stories with us.”

Barbara Vogel, Wolf-Klein’s colleague and program coordinator of the Neuwirth Memory Disorders Program at Zucker Hillside Hospital, said having the patients write the stories about their spouses helped them learn how to take criticism and rejection in stride and grow from the experience.

“Witnessing the progress was always remarkable,” she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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