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Legendary Bronx Cartoonist Celebrates 100th Birthday

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He was born as Abraham Roth in Vienna, Austria in 1911, but became famous as Al Ross, a cartoonist from Pelham Parkway.

Ross was the senior cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine for over 70 years, and has lived in the Bronx for just as long. On Wednesday, October 19, he was joined by friends and family members for his 100th birthday celebration and Workmen’s Circle MultiCare Center on Grace Avenue.

“I’m happy to be here, I’m delighted to be here, and I’m glad I made it,” Ross told partygoers. “I’m going for 105.”

He started at the New Yorker in 1937, where he contnued to work through the new millenium. Ross became famous for his signature caricatures, which usually emphasized people’s facial expressions.

“My idea of drawing cartoons is not to make people laugh,” Ross said. “It’s about the character of people. When a portrait painter does a portrait of you, he studies you. Cartooning is the same way.”

His three brothers were also cartoonists and together they were known as the “Four Cartooning Roth Brothers”

Ross also published several books, including 1953’s Sexcapades: The Love Life of the Modern Homo Sapiens, which give its subject matter, was unusual subject matter for its era.

“He was ahead of his time,” said Arlen Roth, one of Al Ross’ two sons – both of whom were raised on Pelham Parkway South and Bolton Street and attended the birthday party.

“We loved the Bronx,” Arlen Roth said. “It was a great place to grow up. He used to take me to the Bronx Zoo all the time.

Al Ross still maintains his apartment on Pelham Parkway. He was one of the building’s original tenants, along with his wife, over 70 years ago.

His other son, David Roth, said the 100th birthday party was a great experience for “his father, mentor and best friend.

“He’s really coming alive here,” David Roth said. “It’s been good for him.”

David Roth also said he was impressed with the standard of care at Workmen’s Circle.

“We were worried about him when we brought him here, but this is a good place.”

Ross published instructive “how to” books on cartooning as well. And although he is most well-known for his single-panel pieces in the New Yorker, he also did strip-style comics.

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