Sultan, 95, celebrates two milestones in one summer in Highland Park
Jerom Sultan (right) and his wife Florence pose for a portrait at the Highland Park Country Club August 4. Sultan, who turned 95 on August 4, celebrated his birthday at the country club. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
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Which of the following is the greatest accomplishment?
FAMILY: Wife Florynce, three children, eight grandkids and 11 great grandchildren.
HOMES: Chicago, 40 years in Skokie and currently in Northbrook and Florida
SECRET TO LONGEVITY: Luck, golf and family
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:38PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Jerome Sultan celebrated his 95th birthday Aug. 4 and his 71st wedding anniversary with his wife Florynce on June 29.
“Being married for 71 years is tougher,” said Sultan when asked which is the greater accomplishment. “Sometimes you just need to be stupid, go with the flow and try not to control it.
“Its just luck,” Sultan added in his genuine soft tone. “I’ve been lucky all my life.”
While Sultan often credited luck for much of his health — he doesn’t exercise or take any pills, not even a vitamin — golf certainly has kept his life and marriage balanced, energized and rewarding.
He started caddying and playing at 9 years old and has never been away from a course for long since. The game remains a three-day-per week obsession during the summer at the Highland Park Country Club and increases to a five-day commitment in Florida during the winter.
At 95 years old, Sultan’s only obstacle to getting on the course is a lack of playing partners.
“All my friends have disappeared, one way or another,” he said, mixing a joke with the reality of longevity. “All the fellas I was with have either moved away or died. It leaves you like a Pinnacle (golf ball) sitting by yourself.”
Sultan was born in 1917 and grew up in Chicago’s Humboldt and Albany Park neighborhoods. With his wife, they raised a family of three kids in Skokie and have lived the past 26 years in Northbrook.
But he feels most at home in Highland Park, specifically the Highland Park Country Club. Sultan was a member of the club when it was a private course and worked as a starter and ranger from age 78 to 88.
“They told me I couldn’t be insured anymore,” he said. “I would still be working here if I could.”
Before an interview July 31, Sultan hit the course for nine holes. He doesn’t keep score and no longer rips the ball 250 yards, but he consistently pounds the center of the fairway.
“The game is all about putting the ball where you want it,” he explained. “I play with a lot of people who can’t understand how I beat them. It’s because I hit the ball down the fair way.”
Don’t try playing him for money at the Highland Park Country Club. He has played the Park Avenue West course countless times and knows exactly where to drop each shot.
“You’d have a devil of a time if you didn’t know my secrets here,” said Sultan, providing insider advice on holes 13 and 14.
When the kids were young, he’d get out early in the morning to spend the rest of the day with the family. While golf has been important, family has always been the most important piece of his life.
All three of the Sultan’s children, their eight grandkids and 11 great grand children all live in the Chicago suburbs.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Sultan, adding the close family proximity to the long list of reasons he’s a lucky man.
The talk of family sparked a lot of emotions in Florynce, who pointed out that their relationship has really lasted 75 years when you add the four years before marrying in 1941
“It’s really a lifetime,” she said. “Our family is very important to us. He was the best thing that could have happened to me.”
For their recent wedding anniversary the large Sultan clan went out to dinner as a big group. Florynce and Jerome still have their own date nights, too, often including dinner and a disagreement over what kind of movie to watch.
After meeting up at the Highland Park Country Club for his birthday on Aug. 4, the family retreated to daughter Karen Canzoneri’s Highland Park home for a pool party and barbecue.
On his 95th birthday, Sultan didn’t have permission to golf.