My neighbor and very cool friend, Gloria Jaroff, is a “renaissance woman.” Before I elaborate, today is Gloria’s 90th birthday! And tomorrow Gloria’s being honored with a grand party from a remarkable family, which spans four generations and numbers more than fifty. (All of whom consider Gloria a role model for staying young and keeping fit.)  

I warn you, you’ll need a scorecard, but Gloria’s clan includes: her son Joe, daughter-in-law Bhavani, a second daughter-in-law, Kelley, five grandchildren and spouses, one great-grandson, twin sisters, one brother-in-law, five nephews and their wives, a niece and her husband, three great-nieces, seven great-nephews and partners, a great-great niece, and one great-great-nephew. (Whew. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.)

Gloria believes her fitness is a result of daily swimming, a life-long regimen that’s kept her youthful and vigorous. I also think her terrific sense of humor might be a coRENAISSANCEntributing factor, but, whatever the source, Gloria is making 90 the new 70.

Since Gloria has played piano for most of her life, it’s only fitting that the party will include a jazz combo. (Bass player, drummer and Gloria’s good friends, Bob Boreman on sax and Mike Saul on piano.)

Meanwhile, Gloria and her granddaughter, Regan, will be performing a musical number. Regan, an actress and an artist, sings and Gloria plays the piano and it’s  based on the song “Young at Heart,” which is also the theme of the party.

With all due respect to Frank Sinatra, Regan and Gloria have added some of their own lyrics.  “You can trip, break a hip, but you won’t lose your grip, if you’re young at heart/ If your memory’s gone, you can still carry on, if you’re young at heart/ But if she should survive, to one hundred and five, none of her friends will still be alive/ But here is the best part, she’ll never be an old fart, because she is among the very young at heart.”

Understandably, Gloria counts her blessings and feels fortunate to have such a loving family. A retired architect, she remains active in her other careers as an interior designer, published author, public speaker, and jazz piano musician. (Did I mention my renaissance friend has also been a scuba diver for 40 years?)

The “Young at Heart” themed party is planned by Joe. an architectural metal and glass designer and Bhavani, an organic chef. It’ll be held at the Dana Point home of her movie producer nephew, Mike, and his wife, Erica.

Ask Gloria about her life, and she’ll proudly describe her 55 years of designing homes, Disney theme parks, Wells Fargo banks and their corporate center renovations.  Keep in mind when Gloria first began her design career a female architect was not exactly commonplace or necessarily welcome. (I’d say she broke a glass ceiling, but I can already hear the groans.)

Gloria might also regale you about the arts, film making, and medicine, fields many of her relatives are in. For example, her nephew, Michael Buday, recently released “Life, Love, Dogs,” a Netflix and iTunes documentary about why we cherish dogs the way we do.

And Joe has designed and fabricated monumental installations for high-visibility clients, such as Jazz at Lincoln Center and a 9/11 memorial for the City of Hoboken in New Jersey. And Bhavani, who owns an organic garden catering company, also hosts a radio show. Another nephew. Richard, is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and his wife, Helen,  is a renowned eye surgeon. (Talk about an “accomplished” group. Wow.)

Almost half of Gloria’s family members and many of her friends live on the East Coast, where Gloria grew up and began her career. Those unable to travel to California for the birthday celebration will enjoy another party planned for next year.

West Coast attendees will include long-time California friends, design associates, and musician colleagues. In the spirit of her birthday celebration’s theme, Gloria asked everyone to send young photos of themselves. Richard created two photo collage posters that will be on display. (He’s also the editor of Gloria’s book, The Nature of Color in Interior Design)

In fact, Gloria’s working on a sequel of sorts, all about “color” in the architectural sense and also her autobiography. (If only Gloria wasn’t so lazy.) The first I fear might be over my head, but the autobiography sounds terrific and is right up my alley. I can’t wait to review it. 

Tomorrow’s grand celebration will undoubtedly be a joyous and memorable event. The only question is, will Gloria get in her swim workout before or after the party?


For more about Gloria, check her amazing website, Jack is at

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