Ruth Tengood arrived early for her birthday party Saturday afternoon. Didn't want to miss her 100th.
"I'm waiting for my brother," she announced. "Where is he?"
Her son, Steve, had picked her up five minutes away, at Harmony Place, and brought her to where her twin brother, Alfred Pick, lives at Paul's Run.
The conference room at the Northeast Philadelphia seniors community was decorated with balloons that framed two large photographs on the table, sepia-toned portraits of a girl and a boy both no older than 6.
Four generations of family would be celebrating the centennial of siblings who made a life in Philadelphia after fleeing Nazi Germany.
"Look who's here," someone said as Alfred's son, Bob, wheeled the birthday boy into the room.
"Nice party," Alfred said, and then he saw his sister. Cameras snapped as the twins sat side by side, their chairs touching.
Alfred grabbed his sister's hand and pressed it to his lips.
Bob Pick had a present for his father, a photo his cousin had copied, something that had survived another world.
"That's my parents," Alfred said, his voice quavering. "With my sister and me." He ran his fingers over the glass. More family arrived, Bob's children from New York, and the twins had a moment to themselves.
Ruth went right to it.
Auschwitz, you could hear her say. Showers . . . Gas. "They were hardworking people, working in the store."
He listened, saying nothing, and looked away as he squeezed the photo in his lap.
Ruth and Alfred Pick were born Dec. 3, 1912, in Gleiwitz, then part of Germany. Their father, Salomon, ran a grocery store with their mother, Elsa. The family was comfortable.
They became increasingly isolated after the Nazis came to power in 1933, and one by one the siblings found ways out of the country. Ruth was able to get a visa for London, where she worked as a domestic.
Alfred, a pharmacist, fled across the border to Poland, then kept going east as he sensed trouble, learning languages, learning what people wanted to buy. He sailed from Russia to China, landing in Shanghai, where he sold fish and umbrellas, made rubber, cleaned apartments, learned about herbs.
Ruth was in London for the Blitz, sleeping in the Underground for two weeks of bombing. She learned from the Red Cross of their parents' fate.
"My father was a World War I veteran," she says. "He earned an Iron Cross. He didn't want to leave Germany. He said, 'They'll never come for me.' "
She arrived first in Philadelphia, moving into an apartment at Fifth and Girard after the war. She'd married an Austrian Jew named Egon Tengood, whom she'd met at a dance in London.
At first she worked for some of the merchants on Marshall Street. For 62 years, she was a secretary in the office of St. Peter the Apostle Church. To this day, she prays to a picture of St. John Neumann that she keeps by her bed. "We're still a Jewish family," she says.
Alfred arrived by 1948 and, two years later, married Ella Steinberg, who had survived Auschwitz. He spent his career at Hausmann's Pharmacy, living nearby, on North Seventh Street. In 1956, he moved up to the Northeast, to Lexington Park. His sister soon followed, within walking distance near Cottman and the Boulevard.
Now they live nearby again, in separate nursing homes, their spouses gone.
There was one more gift to give in the party room on Saturday. Bob Pick, a Comcast exec from Cherry Hill, handed his father a box containing a portable slot machine. Alfred, who can't get to the casinos anymore, played a few times, won more than he lost, then looked up to see his grandson, Jeremy, an anesthesiology resident, was bearing his 5-month-old son, Max.
Alfred held the boy in his outstretched arms, then set him on his lap. He looked into the boy's eyes and said, "Remember me."