Mrs. Eleanor Hersh (1909-2012)
100th Birthday Celebration
The Blakeford at Green Hills
Eleanor May Herts Hersh
November 15, 1909 – May 27, 2012
Marital Status: Married
Place of Birth: Oakland, California
Parents: Arthur Herman Herts of London, England and Mary Elizabeth Van Alstine Herts of Ellersburg, Washington
Spouse: Louis Hersh
Admitted to The West End Home For Ladies October 30, 1985
Resided in The West End Home For Ladies at 2818 Vanderbilt Place, later in The Blakeford at Green Hills
Burial Site: Cremation
Siblings: Virginia Herts Ballard of Australia
Children: Ann Hersh Gilbert
Mr. Herts grew up in London and moved to Canada at the age of 21. Mrs. Hersh’s paternal grandfather was married three times and had a total of fourteen children. He was originally from Germany and moved to England as a young man, where he worked as a distributor of Scott’s Cod Liver Oil Emulsion and also German wine. Mrs. Hersh’s maternal grandfather was a cattle rancher in Ellersburg. After her maternal grandparents marriage ended, her grandmother moved to Portland, Oregon with her young daughter, where she attended medical school. Upon graduation, she established a general medicine practice in Portland.
Mrs. Hersh’s parents were married in 1906 and lived in Oakland, California until moving to Portland, Oregon when she was a small child. Mrs. Hersh had memories of living in Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles before the age of ten. Her father was in the automotive business and traveled extensively on business, normally including his family in the trips. In 1919 her father received an eighteen month travel assignment sailing through Asia and Australia. Her parents decided that traveling would be more educational than attending a regular school in the United States and took the family on the trip. Her memories included visiting Hawaii, riding in a rickshaw and staying in the Imperial Hotel while in Tokyo before proceeding to Shanghai. She and her younger sister, were enrolled in the Shanghai girl’s school and traveled to school each day via rickshaw. After leaving Shanghai, her family traveled to Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, Java, Batavia, and Australia. While visiting Java, her family rode donkeys up rocky slopes to the mouth of a live but inactive volcano. She remembered the crater being about the size of a football field with a gravelly ash type surface containing several opening spouts of boiling lava. After arriving in Sydney, Mrs. Hersh and her sister were enrolled in boarding school for six weeks before traveling to Melbourne where they attended boarding school for approximately three months. After leaving Australia, they traveled to New Zealand where a hotel maid taught Mrs. Hersh and her sister to knit. On their return trip to the United States, they stopped in Tahiti. After their return, they resided in New York where Mrs. Hersh and her sister attended boarding school and they later resided in Tarrytown where she attended Tarrytown Grammar School. In 1922, her father signed another contract for the same trip with the addition of India. The family traveled to England where the girls and their mother remained while their father continued on his trip. They were educated by tutors during this period. After their return to the United States, the girls were enrolled in boarding school and traveled with their parents in the summer visiting Holland, Brussels, Switzerland and Paris. Mrs. Hersh got her first pair of ballet slippers while visiting Paris. From 1923 to 1939, her family resided in England. She and her sister attended a boarding school there until the age of eighteen. Neither of them attended college.
Mrs. Hersh’s first job was volunteer work at the age of sixteen, selling tickets to the Derby Day horse races at Epsom Downs to benefit St. Dunston’s organization for the blind. Her next job was “selling those vibrating machines you would put around your belt“. She kept this job for several years until opening her own business in London. Mrs. Hersh and a friend, May MacDonald, opened a shop on Baker Street selling hand knit sweaters. Their customers included the Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson.
She married Louis Hersh in 1943 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee where their daughter was born. Three years later, they moved to New York City where Mrs. Hersh designed knitting and needlepoint patterns and sold sweaters to Lord and Taylor before becoming one of the first female traveling sales representatives selling craft kits to hobby shops in the states surrounding Pennsylvania. She traveled with her husband who at that time was a traveling shoe representative. Mr. Hersh passed away in September 1959 leaving her with a 15 year old daughter to raise. Mrs. Hersh was also caring for her mother who was living with them. In order to stay at home, Mrs. Hersh opened a yarn shop in her home. Around 1972, Mrs. Hersh moved to Nashville to open a yarn shop at Chester’s in Green Hills. When the shop closed, she returned to school and received a certificate in Occupational Therapy and began teaching crafts to Senior Citizens all over the city of Nashville. After working for another yarn shop in Green Hills, Mrs. Hersh went to work at Angel Hair Yarns where she sold yarn, aided customers with their knit projects and taught classes. In addition to her work in shops, she taught knitting and needlework in adult evening classes at Hillsboro High School and worked with schoolchildren from Ensworth School.
Mrs. Hersh was Jewish and attended services at The Temple. She loved going to Friday night services, the Tuesday Golden Age programs and knitting with the Temple ladies on Tuesday afternoons. Mrs. Hersh volunteered in the library of the Gordon Jewish Community Center where she performed clerical work and catalogued books. Earlier, she helped inventory and catalogue all of the books in the library at The Temple after it’s expansion and renovation. She also did telephone work for the National Council of Jewish Women and the Buz-a-Bus operated by the Council. Other volunteer work through the years included taking menus to patients at Saint Thomas Hospital on Sundays and staffing the desk at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall, also on Sundays. She was an active volunteer at The Temple collecting donations to fund relief for Hurricane Katrina. At the age of 97, Mrs. Hersh stated “If I could drive, I’d do a lot more volunteer work. People don’t volunteer enough here. You can always find something to do.”
While living at The West End Home For Ladies, she enjoyed cultural activities, music, daily exercise class, knitting, playing bridge, and good food. Mrs. Hersh enjoyed mental stimulation and kept up with local and world news. She enjoyed taking walks and especially enjoyed the pet visits. In April 2009, the Ladies moved to a specially constructed wing of The Blakeford at Green Hills and The West End Home at Vanderbilt Place was permanently closed. The Foundation continued to support the Ladies for the remainder of their lives.
Excerpt from the April 1998 West End Home For Ladies Newsletter written by Mrs. Hersh:
“To quote one of my retired friends: She told me the best day of the week for her was the day she went to help her husband in in his business “Because I get dressed up and put on makeup, it makes me feel good and I enjoy that”. This is the reason why I continue to work – I am well groomed, I meet people of all ages and walks of life – most of them younger than I am and it is stimulating for me. It keeps me up to date on current affairs and I can relate to my nieces and nephews on their level.”
Memories of Our Ladies
In the words of her daughter: “My mother was full of curiosity and playfulness. She was creative and wise. She was stubborn and feisty. She was industrious and tried to get the most from life. She was gregarious and loved being with people, especially people younger than she was. She was traditional and at the same time modern.”
Each of the Ladies had a “Buddy” from the Auxiliary of The West End Home For Ladies. Their Auxiliary buddies were their special friends, visiting often, taking the Ladies out for some fun, and sometimes joining them for meals. Mrs. Hersh’s Buddy was Nettie Jane Langhans, Past President of the Auxiliary. Mrs. Langhans’ shared her memories of Mrs. Hersh: “We went everywhere: Franklin, Green Hills, had our nails done at The French Shoppe. Mrs. Hersh went more than I did! As Mrs. Hersh became more stooped, I had to bend way over to see her face and interact with her at lunch or during a visit. But that didn’t stop Mrs. Hersh from doing things and enjoying life. When there was no one to take her where she wanted to go, Mrs. Hersh road the bus to get around, up into her 90s. She swam at the Jewish Community Center; I bought rubber shoes for her to wear at the pool. I had to work to think of things to get for her, to do for her because she was so active; she did and bought whatever she wanted. She loved books, so that was a good gift. And she enjoyed music, so I took her to the Symphony (Mrs. Hersh bought the tickets), to plays, museums, art exhibits, etc.”
Memories of the Ladies of the West End Home from the West End Home For Ladies Newsletter May 2000: “A regular whirlwind, Eleanor is one person that everyone looks up to and respects for her enthusiasm, energy, and positive attitude about life for a senior citizen.”