Walk into a local Walmart, name a product and Stanley Shubin can tell you exactly how many steps in which direction you’ll take to find it. The East Meadow resident, who will turn 99 on Aug. 25, learned many skills throughout his life. “Luckily, my memory still holds up,” he said with a laugh.
Shubin served in the U.S. Army during World War II, from 1943 to 1946, but never stayed in a unit longer than six months. He was a photographer, a medic, a chef, an engineer and a member of the Signal Corps, and spent time overseeing and transporting German prisoners of war.
After the war, Shubin was a real estate agent, built sets for community theaters and was a chef at a soup kitchen as well as a caretaker for his first and second wives.
He shared some of his favorite stories with the Herald at his house on Vincent Drive, which he bought in 1954 and which he now shares with his daughter Randi Shubin Dresner, the president and chief executive officer of Island Harvest Food Bank.
A soldier with many skills
Shubin was born in Jamaica, Queens, in 1920, to Jacob and Gussie Shubin, who had emigrated from Russia a dozen years earlier. He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1943 before joining the Army when the U.S. entered World War II.
“Odd things happened in the Army,” he said, and Shubin Dresner explained that he was constantly “meeting the right people at the right time,” and that, thanks to his “charming personality,” he avoided combat, and climbed the ranks to 1st sergeant.
As a member of the Signal Corps, he maintained telephone lines. One of the first times he climbed a pole, however, he slipped and fell, clutching it all the way down and marring his hands with splinters. The next day, he sought a transfer, and began training to become a chef.
Along the way, he met a Hollywood photographer, and transferred again, joining a photography unit. Eventually he was transferred to La Havre, France, where he drove a truck transporting prisoners of war. “I knew nothing about trucks,” he said. “I didn’t even have my license at the time.”
While in France, he went to a casino and had a chance encounter with Isidor Guss, a Polish immigrant who had founded Guss’ Pickles in 1920. The two became friends, Shubin recalled, and Guss lent him $75 to play craps.
By the end of the night, Shubin had won enough money to pay Guss back and to fund a two-week trip to London during his next military leave. “I remember his pickles,” Shubin said. “They were good pickles.”
The secret to a long life
Asked his secret for living so long, Shubin said, “Good question. I often wondered.” And, unprompted, he began talking about his first wife, Rhoda. “We got married in 1954—”
But his daughter asked him the question again. “Dad, we want to know the secret to living so long. What do you think, Stan the Man?”
He paused, then said, “Just plain luck.”
But Shubin Dresner knows better. “He devoted his life to taking care of my mom,” she said.
Shubin was 34 when he met Rhoda Morris at a singles weekend at the legendary Concord Hotel in the Catskills, and they married in 1954. When Rhoda was in her late 20s, she began showing signs of multiple sclerosis, but was eventually diagnosed instead with neuritis, or nerve inflammation, and her condition worsened over the next 20 years.
She used a wheelchair for the last 10 years of her life, and Stanley spent the time he wasn’t working taking care of her and making their home wheelchair-accessible. He built an extension off the kitchen that became their bedroom.
Rhoda died in 1989, and not long afterward, one of her best friends since elementary school, Sue Ostrover, lost her husband. Shubin and Ostrover consoled each other, grew close, eventually began dating and married in 1994.
The two moved to Delray Beach, Fla., where Shubin learned tennis, golf and glass molding. He volunteered to building sets at community theaters, including the Lake Worth Playhouse and the West Palm Beach Arts Center, and was a chef at the Boca Raton Soup Kitchen.
But when Sue started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, Stanley, as he did with Rhoda, put everything else aside to care for her. She was eventually placed in a facility with an Alzheimer’s unit, where she received regular care until she died on June 7, 2018.
Shubin planned to sell his East Meadow house when he moved to Florida, but his daughter bought it from him. After Sue died, Stanley moved back in with Shubin Dresner.
He is mostly healthy, save for diminished hearing and vision as he has aged. “All in all,” he said, “I’ve had a wild time.”