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  • Writer's pictureellencdonker

ARE YOU ONE, ARE YOU TWO? by Ellen Donker

Updated: Apr 29

Maplewood resident turns 100

Sarah Densen with son Rob, granddaughter Arielle and great-granddaughter Barr.

Rob Densen admits that he may be biased when it comes to his mother. He’s entitled to it given that she has just turned 100 years old. While her status as a vital centenarian is laudable, he finds her character to be the most praiseworthy.

“What is truly most precious and remarkable about Sarah Densen is her heart – her uncommon kindness, compassion, vibrancy, generosity, and relentless attention to, and concern, for others,” Rob says, “All of it wrapped in a package of wit, good nature, and comicality.”

Rob delivered these words at a gathering on January 11 at The Top in Maplewood, where Sarah has been a resident since 2001. Her friends put on a tea social to mark her 100-year milestone, serving scones and little crustless sandwiches, and marveling at her longevity. Along with Sarah’s friends and family, Maplewood Mayor Nancy Adams read a proclamation in her honor.

Maplewood Mayor Nancy Adams read a proclamation in Sarah’s honor.

Sarah Jane Densen was born on January 16, 1924, in Batavia, New York, the daughter of Morris and Anna (Davis) Rosen. She was the youngest of seven siblings (three brothers and three sisters).

In 1929, at the age of 5, Sarah and her family moved to Brooklyn. Sarah graduated from Samuel J. Tilden High School in 1941, where she was taught Spanish by Sam Levinson, who went on to become an acclaimed American humorist and television personality. When pressed on the matter, she admits that her celebrity crushes were Robert Taylor and, later, Dean Martin.

Sarah matriculated at Brooklyn College and graduated in 1945. After college, she taught second and third grade in the New York City public school system.

In 1947, Sarah married Paul M. Densen, whom she met on a blind date. They lived in Passaic and Newark before moving in 1952 to West Orange, where they raised their sons, Mark and Robert (who blessed Sarah with seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren). Paul and Sarah moved to South Orange in 1971. In 2001, after Paul’s passing, she moved to The Top.

Over the years, Sarah engaged in a wide range of volunteer and charitable activities. For more than 20 years, she read books for the visually impaired at EIES of New Jersey in South Orange, winning the volunteer of the year award. She taught English to Spanish-speaking preschool students at the Valley Settlement House in West Orange. A lifetime devotee of the theater, Sarah loved to perform, stealing the show in various PTA parent productions in West Orange and as a cast member of the Mental Health Association of New Jersey’s Mental Health Players.

Her longest volunteer and philanthropic involvement was with her husband, Paul, in support of the Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was a longstanding member of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel.

Sarah is known among friends and family and by residents and staff at The Top for her warmth, wit and joie de vivre. When asked about her philosophy of life, Sarah simply replied that it is “to whenever and wherever possible, make someone’s life a little easier.”

Rob noted that Sarah “has eaten a relentlessly healthy diet, exercises regularly, and remains both engaged and prayerful.” He added, “These things really work.”


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