Ann E. Gershenzon, an octogenarian tap dancer who entertained and inspired others with her enthusiasm for staying active, died June 25 after a brief illness, her family said. She was 89.
Although she never took a dance class growing up, Mrs. Gershenzon was a born hoofer. Born on Nov. 16, 1923, to Russian immigrants in St. Joseph, Mo., a young Ann Brahinsky learned to tap from her elder brother, who performed onstage.
She formed a backup act with her sister and earned money dancing on weekends in Kansas City nightclubs to help feed their family during the Great Depression.
She quit performing after age 18 to marry and make a life with Nolan Gershenzon, an Army Air Corps navigator who was shot down over Germany during World War II. She helped build B-25s while her husband was a prisoner of war for 13 months before being liberated by Gen. George S. Patton's troops.
Mrs. Gershenzon supported her husband's Air Force career for two decades. She had three children, including a daughter, Reatha, who died at 4 months. Besides moving their family from base to base as he climbed the ranks to colonel, she danced in officers' wives club shows and took up tap regularly after settling in Sacramento in 1958.
She performed with the former Sue Geller Dance Studio in Fair Oaks and with groups, including the Hot Flashes and the Happy Tappers. In recent years, she practiced with the River City Taps at Sierra 2 Center. At almost nine decades, she advocated being active to keep mind and body sharp.
"I dance because I like it," she told The Bee in a story last December. "It's good for you. You meet a lot of nice people. Today, tap dance is very athletic, and your physical stamina can't take much of it."
Although medical problems made it difficult for her to stand, Mrs. Gershenzon never lost her step onstage. She picked up routines quickly and performed her moves while seated in a chair, soaking up the limelight in front of audiences and the admiration of younger dancers.
"She was always up and bubbly," said her daughter Mauria Hirning. "Whenever you watched her it was really exciting, because she was so into what she was doing. She was a real pro."
Mrs. Gershenzon played duplicate bridge at least twice a week and recently received life master points. She retired in her 80s after working many years as a school office clerk in the Sacramento City Unified School District.
She was a founding member and active volunteer at Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael.
She was predeceased by her husband in 1987.
She is survived by two daughters, Mauria Hirning and Monica Gershenzon. Services are pending.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.