The Time of their Lives

With the women who lunched, lounged, and lived large, we celebrate the last days of the Lido Spa. 

It was the last massage, the last trip to the whirlpool, the last rhubarb and strawberry dessert at the final luncheon. For 40 years, women have flocked to the Lido Spa Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, for some well-deserved R&R. For many, it was a second home. It was the little touches that counted: roses on Mother’s Day, 80-year-old male dancers, and the special attentions of Terry Ross, entertainment director for 35 years. The hotel was sold to private developer sand closed Memorial Day. Photographer Joan Roth captures the end of an era.

Facing page: After six months at the Spa, no one would dare take Mildred Schiller’s front row seat for Terry’s “Shower of the Stars,” or sit on her beach chair marked Reserved. At 93, Mildred still exercises daily. “What I learned from Terry,” she says, “is that older women need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

Left: Terry Ross—Teresa Aronson Grossberg—has her own plaque at the National Women’s Hall of Fame, nominated by her four daughters. Her Saturday night repertoire always begins with zmiros (Shabbat songs). The same songs are requested over and over again. Hamavdil, wishing everybody a good week, is a favorite. Even the few gentile women who come to the spa ask when she is going to sing it. Originally roomed to sing opera, Terry, 78, a navy nurse in WWII, went to college under the GI Bill and worked as a performer and comedienne in the Catskills.

Below left: “Ms. Florida 2002” Nan Houston Stenzi was the fifth runner-up in the Senior American National Pageant in Biloxi.

Below center: Anna and Carole Finholston.”We’ve been coming here for 12 years for Mother’s Day,” Carole says. Anna is President of Haddassah Three Islands.

Below right: Edith Leibowitz and Shoshana Baylin. Though their personalities are night and day, they always room together.

Top left: Clara Guritz has been coming to the Lido Spa for so many years she’s lost count. She loves practical jokes. “One woman said, ‘You may have a beautiful body, but an elderly lady shouldn’t expose herself like that.’ When she saw what it was, we laughed so hard.”

Right and below: Down in South Florida, the best form of exercise is Terry’s aquatics. “Lift your leg way up high, turn yourself around and giggle, giggle,” sings Terry to the tune of Hava Nagila. As the women begin the circle dance, she hollers, “Presenting the Lido Spa Aqua Follies.”

Top left: Terry greets her fans.

Top center: After Chair Aerobics at 9:15 a.m. in the gym, and Low Impact Aerobics at 10:00 a.m., two spry friends, ages 84 and 85, continue their workout.

Left: Poet Irene Bell at the juice bar. “Everybody has a story. I don’t want to shock my family, so I don’t put mine down in writing.” A former paramedic and ambulance driver, she trained at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and owned the first car wash in Brooklyn and a mobile trailer park in Monticello, NY. “When you live as long as me,” she says, “you’ve done a lot of things.”

Below: “Jacuzzi bubble bath, very soothing, very relaxing,” explains Lydia Weisberg, a former recreation director.