Throggs Neck resident Peter Schuhmann turned 102 years old on September 26, 2008 and was given a party at the Northeast Bronx Senior Center to mark the occasion.
Though he shows some, to be expected, signs of declining health: poor vision, a slight curvature of the spine due to degenerative arthritis, and significant hearing loss that requires the use of hearing aids in both ears, what is most striking about Peter Schuhmann is the kung-fu grip, vice-lock handshake he lays on you when you first meet him. An elderly man certainly, but a vital man nonetheless.
Born Pious Schuhmann on September 26, 1906 in the small town of Ruckers, Germany to deeply religious parents, Shuhmann always seemed to keep things in stride. His first-born son Fred Schuhmann, 70, recalls stories told to him of his father’s infancy and formative years. “My father has been a man of moderation his whole life. I remember hearing stories about how he was such a calm baby and child. Never too high, nor too low in temperament ” remarked the older Schuhmann son.
After completing his compulsory schooling Peter Schuhmann went to work as shoemaker, a craft that had been in his family for generations. With the emerging Nazi regime beginning to cast its evil shadow over Germany, Shuhman thought it wise to leave his homeland to seek a better life in America.
He arrived at Ellis Island in 1929, at the age of 23. Because of nativist biases Schuhmann was never able to find work as a master shoemaker in New York. He worked a series of odd jobs for a few years before he was hired as a shipping and mechanical clerk by the Accurate Metal Weatherstrip company, and worked there for 40 years until his retirement.
In 1938, at a popular dance hall in Manhattan he spotted a lovely freuline named Kathie and asked her to dance. They were married soon after and their union lasted 50 years until her death in 1988.
Kathie bore two sons, the aforementioned Fred and his brother Walter, with whom Peter Shuhmann resides with on Revere Avenue, where they have lived for 60 years. Through years of hard work Schuhmann achieved every immigrant laborer’s dream of climbing the social ladder as both sons finished college and found white-collar jobs
Peter Schuhmann is also blessed with two grandchildren, Margit, 44 and Jessica, 45.
As for the secret to Schuhmann’s longevity, his son Walter credits primarily good genes, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, a daily regimen of vitamins, and his daily trips to the senior center. Schuhmann is a fixture at the pool table and is an inspiration to his somewhat younger peers.
“What’s remarkable about Peter is that he never complains. The worst you’ll ever hear from him is that his knees are sometimes sore. Plus, he eats all of whatever we serve. He cleans his plate” said Silivia Ponce, the senior center’s director.
It was fitting then that Shuhmann celebrated his birthday at senior center, where all members were treated to lunch, a raffle, and live, traditional German music. The birthday also received a commendation from the state comptroller’s office for, “his kindness, compassion, generosity, and lasting contribution to the Bronx Community” and was cited by Councilman James Vacca for, “outstanding citizenship and community service.”