They’re from the Northeast; they have 2,000 years of life experience; and they were in South Philadelphia last Friday to party.
Every year, as it has been for 11 of them now, the mayor rents a hall and hires a band and a caterer to fete the citizens of Philadelphia who have made it to 100 years or older. Last Friday, about 20 Northeast residents were among almost 100 Philadelphians honored during the city’s Centenarians’ Celebration Day at the Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall on Columbus Boulevard.
The oldest man, Lazar Ayzman, was born in Russia 105 years ago. City officials weren’t sure if the decorated veteran of two wars made it to the party on Friday. Although the event was well-organized, not all centenarians sat at their assigned tables, so it was hard to say at times who was where.
The oldest woman, 111-year-old Anna Henderson, who has 20 grandchildren, is from West Philadelphia and is the city’s oldest resident. She’s about three years shy of the world record, according to information provided by the city. The world’s oldest person is Besse Berry Cooper of Georgia, who is 114.
The city’s largest centenarian populations are in the Northeast and West Philly, city officials said.
Northeast resident Helen Howland is kind of a newbie in this well-seasoned bunch. She just turned 100 on April 17. She was born in Camden.
Frankford resident David Taylor will be 101 in August. He’s originally from southern Virginia.
Sarah Weyland, who lives in Bustleton, has lived her 101 years in the city.
Frank Berman was born in Russia and came to the United States in 1913. He’ll be 101 in late September.
Albert Mariani was born in Italy and lives near Bell’s Corner. He’ll be 101 in July.
Other Northeast residents scheduled to attend last week’s party were Ecuador-born Ana Arreaga, 101; Sally Dormer, 100, of Rhawnhurst; Mary Edwards, 105; Austria-born Madaline Francovich, who will turn 100 in July; Herman Kalkstein, 100; Mary Kelly, 100; Irma Macho, 105; Ellen Moore; 101; Eugenia Nealis, 102; Mary Oliver, 101; Margaret Palermo, 100; Stell Reutlinger, 100; Dolores Schmidt, who will turn 100 in September; and Ida Schwalb, who was born in Romania on May 23, 1911.
About 100 100-year-olds were slated to attend Friday’s event hosted by Mayor Michael Nutter, but there are more than 400 Philadelphians who have lived a century or more, city officials said.
Mariani, who still has a full head of hair, attributed his long life to rigorous work — he was in construction — and a lot of dancing since he retired. He misses his family most. His brother lives in Colorado and his son lives in Florida.
Weyland, who lived on the 2100 block of Disston St. before moving to a retirement home, was an office worker. She said she stayed healthy by eating healthy. That means avoiding liquor and junk food. Her favorite is still chicken soup, which was on the menu at the party.
But she never did anything special, Weyland insists. “I just went along,” she said, adding, “I never dreamed of being as old as I am.”
Taylor now lives in Frankford. He moved to Philadelphia from southern Virginia about 75 years ago.
“He’s from South Hills, Virginia,” said his daughter Jeanne Mackie, 71, who accompanied Taylor with another daughter, 73-year-old Miriam Jones. Because their father has lost his sight, the sisters take care of him these days.
Mackie said their family is large and that her dad misses going back to South Hills as often as he did when he was younger. Jones said she and Mackie are two of Taylor’s five children, four of whom live in Frankford. She said Taylor’s 102-year-old sister, Pearl Scott, died in April.
Helen Howland, who lives on the edge of the city in Pine Valley, said love and a healthful diet contributed to her long life. She doesn’t avoid anything, but she believes in moderation.
Howland is a retired teacher who worked in Delaware County. She recalls when bakeries did not sell sliced bread and when people had ice delivered to their homes. She was accompanied Friday by her 63-year-old son, John, and her 68-year-old daughter, Jane.
“I have another son who is 80,” she said, “but we didn’t bring him.”
Berman, who lives on the 12000 block of Bustleton Ave., likes a good time. One of his favorite pastimes is shooting craps. Asked how he does at the tables, he said well, but he added that it’s mostly luck.
That’s his explanation of a long life, too.
“It’s just luck,” he said.