The century club

— Ad­vice for a long life: Eat plenty of fruit, work hard and keep a smile on your face.

North­east res­id­ent Kath­er­ine Ap­pi­cello, 100 years old, en­joys the cel­eb­ra­tion hon­or­ing Phil­adelphi­an cen­ten­ari­ans Thursday, May 17, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


When Ayz­man Lazer was born in Rus­sia in Decem­ber 1905, his coun­try was ruled by a czar, the Brit­ish Em­pire oc­cu­pied about a quarter of the globe and Teddy Roosevelt was in the Oval Of­fice. Since then, there have been two world wars, epi­dem­ics, an­oth­er Roosevelt in the White House, de­pres­sions, re­ces­sions, eco­nom­ic down­turns, space travel, cell phones, atom­ic blasts and a pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion.

Last Thursday, Lazer joined oth­ers who’ve seen about as much as he has. The Bustleton res­id­ent was among about 100 people who are 100 years old or older whose con­tri­bu­tions the city honored at a lunch­eon at the Sheet Met­al Work­ers hall on Colum­bus Av­en­ue.

Lazer, at 106, was the old­est man in at­tend­ance, said Randy Gi­an­ca­terino of the City Rep­res­ent­at­ive’s Of­fice. Anna Hende­r­son was the old­est wo­man. In fact, at 112, Hende­r­son is one of the old­est people in the world. The most seni­or of the world’s cit­izens is Besse Berry Cooper, 115, of Geor­gia, USA.

Mary Ed­wards, 107, and also from the North­east, was the old­est Phil­adelphia-born cen­ten­ari­an at the South Philly uni­on hall for the 12th an­nu­al ce­re­mony.

There are 452 cen­ten­ari­ans liv­ing in Phil­adelphia, ac­cord­ing to stat­ist­ics sup­plied by the city. The city’s 100-year-old club is grow­ing. That’s 28 more mem­bers than there were in Philly last year. Na­tion­wide, by 2010, there were more than 51,000 in the United States.

Many of those who are age 100 or older or about to turn 100 this year at last week’s party were from North­east Philly, in­clud­ing: Helen Birken­stock, 99; Mary Calzada, 99; Eli­as Cheri­an, 99; An­nie Faix, 100; Zelma Fin­neg­an, 100; Mary Kelly, 101; Irma Macho, 106; Eu­enia Neal­is, 103; Mary Oliv­er, 102; Mar­garet Palermo, 101; Ruth Ten­good, 99; Anna Tracey, 99; Sarah Wey­land, 102; and Yutchen Yang, 99.

That’s a lot of people who have seen the world change in big and little ways.

El­len Moore, lately of May­fair, lived for 90 of her 102 years in Fox Chase. She had lived in a row house be­fore that and was so glad to move in­to a home that had ground around it.

People stayed in their neigh­bor­hoods, she said. There were loc­al movie houses, she said, so people didn’t have to stray far from home for en­ter­tain­ment. Be­sides, she said, very few people had cars.

Moore re­called the deadly post-World War I  epi­dem­ics. She lost a baby broth­er to one, and re­called that deaths had been so nu­mer­ous that her fam­ily ini­tially couldn’t get a coffin.

“They had run out of coffins,” she said. “People were be­ing bur­ied in sheets.”

Still, her little broth­er got a coffin be­cause a fam­ily friend made it.

Kath­er­ine Ap­pi­cello, 100, of Wissi­nom­ing, re­called how loc­al busi­nesses thrived. “Miss Kitty” ran one of them, a Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue fab­ric store called the Rose Shop. She re­mem­bers Me­mori­al Day parades in Ta­cony and mu­si­cians who were mem­bers of a loc­al church strolling from block to block as they played.

She knew struggles, too, she said, like be­ing hungry dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, and work­ing 10 hours a day for eight bucks a week.

“I once scrubbed a lady’s en­tire house for two dol­lars,” she said.

Of course, when people were earn­ing next to noth­ing, prices were pretty low, too. Way back when, you could fill a bag with bread and good­ies from Beck’s bakery on Frank­ford Av­en­ue for a quarter, she said.

Mar­garet Haze, 100, of Somer­ton, moved to Philly from Man­hat­tan 46 years ago. A pi­an­ist and former USO dir­ect­or, Haze lives on her own and does her own cook­ing, she said.

Her secret to a long life?

“It’s ge­net­ic,” her son, Paul, said. Fam­ily mem­bers are very long-lived, he ex­plained.

“No fried food!” his mom chipped in. Put plenty of fruits and ve­get­ables in your diet, she said, but she ad­ded she likes steak.

Ap­pi­cello had a few pieces of ad­vice: eat plenty of fruit, work hard and keep a smile on your face.

For Moore, the for­mula for a long life re­mains a mys­tery.

“I’m still try­ing to fig­ure it out,” she said. ••


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