By Janee Law
Longtime Centerport resident Jeannette Kopp celebrated her 100th birthday last week, venturing to Bistro Cassis restaurant in Huntington for a meal surrounded by family.
“It is fantastic,” Kopp said. “I never thought I would be 100, and to think that I can look back and think of all things that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Kopp was born on April 1, 1916 in Brooklyn, where she was raised. After high school, she earned a full scholarship to Pace Institute of Business in Manhattan, which is today Pace University.
“She really believed in women getting an education, she really believed in women standing up for themselves,” said Janet Grossman, Kopp’s daughter.
At school, Kopp met her eventual husband, the late Clarence, through a classmate whom she traveled to City Island with one day.
“He lost his glasses and he couldn’t take me home, so he went to his brother’s best friend, who became my husband, and asked him to take me home,” Kopp said.
“And that was the beginning.”
The couple married in 1938 and had two children, Janet and Laurence Kopp. Kopp is also a grandmother to four, and a great-grandmother to five.
Kopp worked in New York City at her husband’s Universal Supply Company as a part-time bookkeeper.
In 1950, the family moved to Fillmore Street in Centerport, a short walk away from Centerport Harbor.
“The children loved it at the time, and we have a private beach here so we would go swimming every day… and we had a boat that we used all the time,” Kopp said. “It was a wonderful life.”
While living in Centerport, Kopp continued to work at her husband's business until the mid-1960s when she became heavily involved with The Congregational Church of Huntington in Centerport.
The couple joined the church in late-1950s, which eventually led Kopp to earn another scholarship, this time to the Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan. There, she studied the Old Testament under Ursula Niebuhr, who was the wife of famous theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
Kopp said it was “really wonderful” studying under Niebuhr, who opened her eyes to so much.
“I’ve always had an interest in theology,” she said. “I like the moral teachings and I felt that even today they should be teaching the Ten Commandments.”
Although she wasn’t able to complete the scholarship because she wanted to take care of her mother who was ill at the time, Kopp eventually became director of religious education for The Congregational Church of Huntington, leading the Old Testament studies.
Kopp also took part in several local clubs, including Mariner Girl Scouts and The Stitch and Chatter Club, which was a group of local women who would get together once a week to talk, sew and save money for their trips to the theater in New York City.
“We had a lot of fun,” Kopp said, adding that the girls would also enjoy dinner shows. “We were all so happy because our husbands had to take care of the children and we had the whole day and evening off.”
Around 1990, Kopp also hosted a four-member bridge club at her home, which she continued until two years ago.
Grossman, 74, of Sag Harbor said her mother “is a very social person.. and felt much like a part of the community. It was an important part of her life.”
“It’s rubbed off on me,” she added. “I’m very much a part of my community.”
Outside of Huntington, Kopp and her husband were very active, traveling to Japan, the Fiji Islands and a home they rented in Grenada in the Caribbean.
Overall, Kopp said, “It’s been a good life.”