102 years old, Rosalee's philosophy of life is to "always think what to do next."EXPAND
102 years old, Rosalee's philosophy of life is to "always think what to do next."
Courtesy of Rosalee and Lillian Glass

Centenarian Actress and Holocaust Survivor Rosalee Glass Shares Her Secrets to a Long Life

Rosalee Glass isn’t your average 102-year-old. For starters, she’s one of 55,000 people in America, roughly 0.02 percent of the population, to join the elusive ranks of centenarians. But her rarity surpasses even that: She's a Holocaust survivor, self-made businesswomen, author, advice consultant, senior Miss Congeniality pageant winner, and a late Hollywood actress. Put it all together and it's no stretch to conclude that Glass's life story is unrivaled and one of a kind.

What's her secret? "To be happy and to show love," she says, "and to make an exciting life."

Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, Rosalee has come a long way. She and her husband Abraham were kidnapped by Russian soldiers during World War II and forced into labor as prisoners of war. Brutal conditions led to the loss of two of their infant children, as Rosalee and Abraham were stranded in Kazakhstan to fend for themselves after the close of the war. Eventually, they found their way to Germany, where they were granted entry into the U.S. Miami was where the couple built an American home.

At 82, Rosalee's husband and son had passed away, and she followed an extended period of grieving with a revitalized perspective on life. Becoming an actress was her goal, and she relocated to California. Taking the plunge, the senior aspiring actress went for it.

You may recognize her from that viral 2015 Dodge Super Bowl commercial, where she’s pictured offering words of wisdom for a life well lived. At age 90, Rosalee set off with her daughter Lillian to travel the world, from Greece to Africa to Sweden. "Everywhere we went, people were surrounding her, asking her questions, kissing her cheek," says Lillian. "We have a whole wall of pictures from the trip of people kissing her."

Age 94 was another milestone for Rosalee. She was crowned Miss Congeniality in a California senior beauty pageant. And she was just getting started. Five years later she achieved her next aspiration: writing a book. Rosalee Glass: 100 Years of Wisdom to Guide Thru Life’s Ups and Downs was published when she was 99 years old.

By her next birthday, Rosalee became the star of her own documentary, Reinventing Rosalee, filmed by her daughter, Dr. Lillian Glass. The film chronicles Rosalee's life as she relentlessly pursued her dreams. In it, she and Lillian embark on a series of adventures, the wildest of which was dog sledding in Alaska. "I wanted to go again and again," says Rosalee about her sledding feat.

Reinventing Rosalee serves as a gripping tribute to the enamoring spirit of a mother. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without her,” says Lillian. Screening at this year's Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, the documentary has been an official selection at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and Manhattan Film Festival. The star of the film will also be honored by FLIFF with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The real question is: What hasn't Rosalee done?
The real question is: What hasn't Rosalee done?
Courtesy of Rosalee and Lillian Glass

Nowadays, Rosalee shows no signs of slowing down. After conquering tai chi, dance, and acting, she’s moved on to Pilates. Another venture the centenarian has taken up is being a modern day "Dear Abby," or online advice-giver. Lillian swears by her mother’s capacity to inspire, something she learned firsthand.

Lillian recalls a moment from when she was 12. “A friend of mine, her parents were having an anniversary party... When I got there, my friend left me alone at the table. I was just sitting there shy, embarrassed, and alone.” Lillian says she rushed to the phone and called her parents, wanting them to pick her up.

Rosalee answered and offered some advice that her daughter says “changed her life.”

"'So here’s what you do,’ she said, ‘I want you to go to every single table, and I want you to ask everybody there what they do. Tell them your name... and ask them about themselves. Don’t talk about you — just ask them about themselves, what they do, why they're here, and how they know the hosts.'" Laughing, Lillian recalls taking her mother's advice, which led to meeting a model, a college professor, a lawyer, and a dentist. She ended up having a ball. "She gave me such confidence. From then on, I was never shy again."

Rosalee’s most exercised tidbits of wisdom demonstrate the mind of a woman who decided early on that positivity permeates, people are everything, and the sky is the limit. “Bad times are not forever,” she shares, which also happens to be the tagline of Reinventing Rosalee.

Joining that mantra is another saying both mother and daughter like to share with others: "It’s never too late to live your dream and be great." You could say they're words Rosalee Glass has lived by.

Rosalee Glass Meet and Greet. 6 p.m. Sunday, November 11, at Savor Cinema, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale; fliff.com. Tickets cost $20 or $15 for FLIFF members.

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Through Sunday, November 18, at various locations across Fort Lauderdale; 954 525-3456; fliff.com. Tickets cost $12 via fliff.com.

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