Sadie Cohen Geller (1900-1995)

Sadie Cohen Geller was born in Stolin, Russia (now Belarus) in the year 1900. She recalls very little about the Old Country - only that her grandfather was a grain dealer - because her family relocated to New York in 1908. Her father had arrived a few years prior, and Sadie subsequently came to join him with her mother and her two brothers, William and Nathan. They remained in New York for six years, then moved to Portland in 1914.

In Portland, Sadie’s family lived in the South Portland neighborhood and were very active in the Jewish community. She attended Failing School before going to work at Meier & Frank. She frequently spent time at the Neighborhood House with her group of friends, sewing and reading in the library. Sadie and her family were also very active members of Congregation Shaarie Torah. Her father, Ruben Cohen, was known as “Mr. Shaarie Torah” in the Jewish community and was president of the synagogue for 23 years.

In 1919, Sadie met Boris Geller, a member of the South Parkway Club, and the two were married in 1921. She had her first child, Fern, in the same year. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, Sadie and Boris moved to Astoria, Oregon, where her husband went into business. They stayed their only a year, and then happily returned to Portland and opened up a grocery store in 1926, directly across the street from Boris’ parents’ grocery store. They also owned and ran two concession stands in Sellwood Park and Washington Park, which helped keep them afloat financially during the Depression.

After the birth of Sadie’s second child, Shirley, she joined the South Parkway Sisterhood, the Shaarie Torah Sisterhood, and the Robison Sisterhood. She was very involved in community events and philanthropic work for all of the organizations. She helped establish the Neighborhood House kindergarten, organized and hosted Passover Seders at the Neighborhood House for a number of years, and put on fundraising events for the South Portland community, the synagogue, and the Home.

In 1941, Sadie and Boris moved from South Portland to the east side and relocated their grocery store to Irvington. Most of their close friends had already moved to that neighborhood, and so their life continued on as it had before. South Portland had begun to deteriorate at that point, and it wasn’t long before the Urban Renewal project was planned, which Sadie claimed was a good thing. Although she remained nostalgic about the old South Portland neighborhood, she insisted that she was very happy living in a new place with her oldest friends, and that she was adapting to the changes in the Portland Jewish community.   

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