Judy Greenwald/JN Contributing Writer
The saying “It’s never too late” is one not lost on Frances Holtzman. The Farmington Hills resident, who’ll celebrate her 100th birthday Dec. 27, is taking this phrase along with her love of Judaism to heart by becoming a bat mitzvah at Adat Shalom on Dec. 29.
Born Frances Clinton in Ann Arbor to Jack Clinton and Fanny Goldman, she grew up in a Reform household with one younger brother. According to her daughter Jan Colman, she had a wonderful childhood and strove to make her parents proud.
One way Holtzman accomplished this was by valuing education, something she passed along to her family. Colman said when it was time for her mother to go to college, she wanted to go to the University of Michigan. Because of the Depression, her parents could only afford to send her to Wayne State, which she readily accepted.
“My mom majored in chemistry and math,” Colman said, “and she loved chemistry! Once she took a class and got a D. She felt it was because she didn’t have a good instructor. She took the class again the next semester and got an A.”
After graduation, Holtzman got a job with Ford Automotive. She then worked as a medical technician. She loved her work, but, in 1943, she met and married Frank Holtzman and quit to raise her three children: Colman, her sister Marsha Adelson and her brother Bruce Holtzman. Her family now includes six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Colman noted family and the importance of educating the generations are among her mother’s strongest interests. Her mother helped all her grandchildren through college and has even assisted her great-grandchildren with Jewish school tuition.
But that’s only one of her mother’s passions, said Colman, who adds her mom is a U-M football fan (still bleeds blue and maize, Colman jokes) and doesn’t miss a game. She’s been an avid dancer all her life, and plays the piano and ukulele, and accompanied her family on an organ while they all sang. “None of us could carry a tune,” Colman remembered, “but we had great fun!
“She also loves monkeys,” Colman said with a smile. “She has everything from monkey paintings and Lladro monkeys to stuffed monkeys!”
One of Holtzman’s greatest joys was being on the water, and boating provided many happy summer moments.
Her love and support for Israel, Jewish organizations and Judaism is something she’s passed on to her family as well.
“My mom grew up in a Reform family and was confirmed at Temple Beth El,” Colman said. “My dad came from a more observant family, and they became founding members of Adat Shalom. She and I still belong there.
“My mom instilled a Jewish identity in all her children by celebrating all the holidays, lighting candles and inviting everyone to Shabbat and holiday dinners.
“One day, she was talking to my son and expressed the desire to become a bat mitzvah. She said she always wanted to do it, to feel complete as a Jew. My son called his friend Dan, Rabbi Rachel Shere’s husband, and the rabbi has been wonderfully helpful. We’ll celebrate her upcoming bat mitzvah at a Havdalah service. She’s been practicing so diligently and is excited to be called for her aliyah in front of family and friends.”
And what does her family find most inspiring about her century of life?
“She’s always very encouraging to us,” Colman concluded proudly. “But the best thing is no matter what, she always has a positive attitude. If things aren’t going well, she’s always there, pointing out what’s going right. My mom doesn’t hesitate to offer encouragement. That’s so important, to us and to her!” ■