The greater Trenton area has its own connection to China: 100 years ago, on March 25, 1916, Bella Applebaum was born in Har Bin China, the fifth child to Jacob and Anna Applebaum. And looking at her face on her 100th birthday, it is easy to understand why her parents named her Bella. 100 years later, she still radiates the beauty that her name signifies.
Sometime in the late 1930’s, the Applebaum family migrated from China through San Francisco and ended up in Louisville, Kentucky. As it happened, a young U.S. army soldier named Morris Appelbaum was sent to Fort Knox in Kentucky. Lonely, he opened the telephone book looking for possible relatives. Did he get lucky! He knocked on the door of the brilliant, educated, and beautiful Bella. Not being dumb, he proposed a short time later, and Bella was married at age 24 to Morris.
In 1942, Bella came to Trenton, NJ, with Morris to run the Reber Bakery.
Bella and Morris had two children, Arnold and Ann, of whom Bella is endlessly proud. Loving parents, they provided a warm happy home for their children teaching them the values of hard work and apparently good food. Not only was Bella a wonderful cook, but her daughter Ann Merlino, married to the owner of the famed Lorenzo’s and Merlino’s Waterfront Restaurants, is well known to her friends as a fabulous cook. Arnold, was a hard worker like his father and mother, and married Helen. Now both Arnold and Helen are deceased, but they had a beautiful daughter Karen, who is a joy to her grandmother Bella.
Bella remained close to her family, talking to at least one of them every day, sharing the wisdom of her age, and enjoying learning about what was going on in their lives. That tradition continues.
Bella’s and Morris’ values gave the family the strength to survive the terrible loss of Morris at a young age after he was diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Bella had to give up the bakery, but she was not one to live “on charity.” She landed a job working for the State of New Jersey, which she held for ten years until her retirement in 1976. She lived in her own home until that became too difficult, and she moved to live with Arnold in his home for many years. In 2013, Bella moved to an acute care facility in Mercer County, where is very comfortable and happy with a constant stream of visitors. She celebrated her 100h birthday party with family and friends on March 25, 2016.
Looking deep into the eyes of Bella’s smiling face, you can tell that her memory is clear and full, and that the joys continue to outweigh the sorrows in the life that is Bella Applebaum’s — it is a life well lived.
Happy 100th Birthday Bella to whom we can truly say “Cent’ Anni and may you live 100 more!”
Content credit: Thank you to Sara Cooper of Cooper Creative Group and Bella’s family for sharing Bella’s celebratory news with the MercerMe community!