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Centenarian

Edwin Pyser, 100, a veteran who was stationed in England during World War II, stands before an original English painting he acquired there. Photo courtesy Community Care Home Health Services

Edwin Pyser, of Greenlawn, a Community Care Home Health Services patient, recently achieved a milestone, turning 100 years young on Aug. 23.

Congratulatory messages poured in from near and far, including an official proclamation and certificates of recognition from the Town of Huntington, where he resides, along with an autographed photo from President Joe Biden.

One of Pyser’s most cherished gifts, however, was a blanket he received during his birthday party with family and friends. It highlights news and events from 1923, the year he was born, and harkens back to a world of 2-cent stamps, $500 automobiles and $5,000 homes.

Born in the Bronx, Pyser remembers the Great Depression and America’s entry into World War II. Just days after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces at age 18 and became a mechanic on B-17 bombers based out of the Eccles Road Airfield in Norfolk, England.

“My parents hesitated to sign the paperwork [allowing him to enlist], but they finally did,” Pyser said. His family came to understand that it would be better for him to enlist and have some say in where he would serve, than to wait and get drafted and have no say at all.

During his service in England, he met his future wife, Edith, whom he called Edie, at an off-base dance. Their courtship led to marriage in 1945.

“In fact, we got back from our honeymoon in Bournemouth [a southern English seaside resort] on May 8, V-E Day, the day the war ended in Europe,” Pyser said.

Marital bliss, however, was put on hold as he sailed back to the U.S. on the RMS Queen Elizabeth to fight the continuing war in Japan. “That’s when we heard the news, over the loudspeakers, that we dropped the atomic bomb,” he said.

Pyser was then granted a 30-day furlough and stayed with his family in East New York, Brooklyn, while his newlywed bride remained in England. Edie’s father had been killed in the war, and the street next to her home had been destroyed by bombs.

“When you’re in a war, you never know if you’re coming home tomorrow,” Pyser reflected.

Thankfully, in 1946, the couple were finally reunited and settled in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Two sons, Harvey and Larry, would follow, and Edwin supported his family by working at Pyser & Brothers, his father’s diamond-setting shop in New York City’s diamond district.

After his wife died a few years ago, Pyser agreed with his son, Larry, that he should move to Long Island to be closer to family. Larry later arranged caregiving services through Community Care Home Health Services of  Smithtown.

Even at 100 years of age, Pyser has much to look forward to. He’s about to be introduced to the newest addition to his growing family; Larry’s daughter, Danielle, recently welcomed a baby girl, Jordan.

As for his secret to a long life? Pyser paused and then declared with an impish grin, “It’s a secret, so I can’t tell you.”

Quality years are achievable. METRO photo

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

On Sunday, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter celebrated his 99th birthday. While he is currently in hospice care, most of his last decade, he has been healthy and active.

Living into your 90s is becoming more common. According to the National Institutes of Health, those in the U.S. who were more than 90 years old increased by 2.5 times over a 30-year period from 1980 to 2010 (1). This group is among what researchers refer to as the “oldest-old,” which includes those aged 85 and older.

What do they all have in common, other than age? According to one study, they tend to have fewer chronic medical conditions or diseases. Because of this, they tend to have greater physical functioning and mental acuity, along with a better quality of life (2).

In a study of centenarians, genetics played a significant role. Characteristics of this group were that they tended to be healthy and then die rapidly, without prolonged suffering (3). In other words, they grew old “gracefully,” staying mobile and mentally alert.

Factors that predict one’s ability to reach this exclusive club may involve both genetics and lifestyle choices. Let’s look at the research.

How important is exercise?

We’re repeatedly nudged to exercise. Why? Results of one study with over 55,000 participants from ages 18 to 100 showed that five-to-ten minutes of daily running, regardless of the pace, can significantly impact our life span by decreasing cardiovascular and all-cause mortality (4).

Amazingly, even if participants ran fewer than six miles a week at a pace slower than 10-minute miles, and even if they ran only one to two days a week, there was still a decrease in mortality compared to nonrunners. Those who ran for this very limited amount of time and modest pace potentially added three years to their life span.

An accompanying editorial to this study noted that more than 50 percent of people in the United States do not meet the current recommendation of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day (5).

A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2022 found that those 85 and older reduced the risk of all-cause mortality 40 percent by walking just 60 minutes a week at a pace that qualified as physical activity, not even exercise (6).

Does reducing animal protein consumption help?

A long-standing dietary paradigm has been that we need to eat sufficient animal protein. However, many are questioning the value of this, especially as it relates to longevity.

In an observational study of 7,000 participants from ages 50 to 65, results show that those who ate a high-protein diet with greater than 20 percent of their calories from protein had a had a 75 percent increase in overall mortality, a four-times increased risk of cancer mortality, and a four-times increased risk of dying from diabetes during the following 18 years (7). 

However, this did not hold true if the protein source was plants. In fact, a high-protein plant diet may reduce the risks, not increase them. The reason, according to the authors, is that animal protein may increase insulin growth factor-1 and growth hormones that have detrimental effects on the body.

The Adventists Health Study 2 trial reinforced these findings. It looked at Seventh-day Adventists, a group that emphasizes a plant-based diet, and found that those who ate animal protein once a week or less had a significantly reduced risk of dying over the next six years compared to those who were more frequent meat eaters (8). This was an observational trial with over 73,000 participants and a median age of 57 years old.

What effect does systemic inflammation have?

In the Whitehall II study, a specific marker for inflammation was measured, interleukin-6. The study showed that higher levels did not bode well for participants’ healthy longevity (9). If participants had elevated IL-6 (>2.0 ng/L) at both baseline and at the end of the 10-year follow-up period, their probability of healthy aging decreased by almost half.

The good news is that inflammation can be improved significantly with lifestyle changes.

The takeaway from this study is that IL-6 is a relatively common biomarker for inflammation. It can be measured with a simple blood test offered by most major laboratories. This study involved 3,044 participants over the age of 35 who did not have a stroke, heart attack or cancer at the beginning of the study.

The bottom line is that, although genetics are important for longevity, so too are lifestyle choices. A small amount of exercise and consuming more plant protein than animal protein can contribute to a substantial increase in healthy life span. IL-6 may be a useful marker for inflammation, which could help predict healthy or unhealthy outcomes. Your doctor can test to see if you have an elevated IL-6. If you do, lifestyle modifications may be able to reduce these levels.

References:

(1) nia.nih.gov. (2) J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009;57:432-440. (3) Future of Genomic Medicine (FoGM) VII. Presented March 7, 2014. (4) J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64:472-481. (5) J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64:482-484. (6) European Society of Cardiology Congress, Aug. 28, 2022. (7) Cell Metab. 2014;19:407-417. (8) JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173:1230-1238. (9) CMAJ. 2013;185:E763-E770.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

Alice Link, second from right, receives a proclamation from state Sen. Jim Gaughran, Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson. Photo from Cuthbertson's office

A pandemic wasn’t going to keep Huntington community members and elected officials from wishing one popular town resident a happy birthday.

Alice Link waves to cars driving by to wish her a happy birthday. Photo from Town of Huntington

On Feb. 4, cars holding dozens of passengers were lined up on Alice Link’s Huntington street for a drive-by parade, while others waited in her driveway, to wish her a happy 100th birthday. The centenarian, who was a docent with the Huntington Historical Society, a member of the town’s Senior Center and a former teacher, is well known in the area.

In a phone interview three days after the car parade, Link said it was overwhelming — in a good way — and she was happy to see everyone.

The historical society’s executive director, Tracy Pfaff-Smith, said after the car parade, about 30 members from the society stopped by with good wishes for the centenarian and chatted with her outside.

“She’s very funny,” Pfaff-Smith said. “She was just cracking joke after joke. She’s amazing.”

Link has lived in the town for 75 years. Born in Boston, she was raised in France, until her family left the country for the U.S. after the outbreak of World War II when the American Embassy told U.S. citizens to leave France.

“They didn’t help you in any shape or form,” she said. “They just said get out of there. They didn’t send you planes or anything at all to help you.”

Through the decades, Link has kept in touch with many people she knew in France, and has been able to visit with her family, even sometimes staying in castles.

“I always told them I have no money to leave you, but I’ll leave you the best memories,” she said.

Link and her husband moved to Huntington in 1946 where they raised five children, who have given her 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

In addition to being a mother, she also taught Spanish and French in the South Huntington school district. While she studied at Manhattan’s Parsons School of Interior Design before she was married, she returned to school in her 40s and received her bachelor’s degree, teaching certificate and a master’s of humanities from Hofstra University.

Alice Link receives birthday well wishes from Senior Center Director Julia Frangione, Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Human Services Director Carmen Kasper. Photos from the Town of Huntington

She then went on to receive a master’s degree in Spanish in 1972 after studying at Guadalajara University, Mexico, and Valencia, Spain, which led to her 20-year career as a teacher.

After retiring at 65, Link said she continued to help students through tutoring until she was 85. Her volunteer work with the historical society spans over nearly 40 years, where she served as a docent and board member. As a docent, she would give tours of the historic Conklin and Kissam houses.

Link said she has memories of old Huntington such as when a police officer would be stationed at a stand at the crossroad of New York Avenue and Main Street, and a feed grain store would load its goods on a trolley that ran through the town.

“My children say they’re not surprised my legs have given out on me because they think that I probably walked hundreds of miles, pushing my babies around town,” she said.

When it comes to family history, Link said her daughter helped trace her ancestry, and this winter, the centenarian has been busy going through old photos and sharing copies she finds with relatives when she comes across multiples. She said she appreciates photo albums more than smartphones because she feels so many often lose all their photos and information stored on devices. Sharing photos and passing on family information is something she believes is important.

As for longevity and looking and feeling young, Link said she jokingly tells everyone who asks her secret the same thing.

“Pick your genes, pick your ancestors,” she said.

Jack Raybin, center, on his 100th birthday receives a proclamation from New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright while his wife, Anne Raybin, looks on. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Not many can say a state legislator attended their birthday party, but that’s exactly what happened when Jack Raybin, a 52-year Setauket resident, celebrated his 100th birthday.

Jack Raybin checks out a gift from his grandchildren a few days after this 100th birthday. Photo by Rita J. Egan

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) stopped by Raybin’s party July 4 to present the centenarian with a proclamation. Englebright said it’s a practice of the assembly members to recognize those who distinguish themselves through unique gifts and generosity.

The assemblyman said when Raybin was a young man, he put aside his dreams to become a civil engineer to serve his country in the U.S. Army during World War II. After telling the party guests that the proclamation bears the seal of the State of New York in solid gold, he turned to Raybin to present the certificate and said, “You, sir, are solid gold.”

A few days after the party, sporting a Brooklyn Dodgers hat, the centenarian said he had a nice time at the party that featured baseball-themed decorations lining the driveway and a cake shaped like the former Ebbets Field stadium. Like many of his generation, Raybin was a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers until the team moved from the borough to Los Angeles in 1957. He then went on to root for the New York Mets.

Born in the East New York section of Brooklyn July 4, 1919, he graduated from Erasmus Hall High School. While he originally studied civil engineering at City College uptown, Raybin said he wound up joining the Army during World War II. He was stationed on the Atlantic Ocean side of Panama. He said he volunteered to join the Army, and at the time there were openings in Fort Tilden and Fort Hamilton in New York, and he expected to serve for a year at either one of them. However, due to there being no volunteers for Panama, names were chosen randomly, and Raybin was selected to serve in that country.

“It was the best thing that happened to me,” he said.

Members of the armed services at Tilden and Hamilton eventually were sent to Europe to fight in World War II; however, he remained in Panama for four years. It was during this time that he met former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was visiting the troops. He was a captain at the time, and Roosevelt had a question for him.

“Captain, which is your best mess hall?” Roosevelt said.

“That one,” he said, indicating a nearby hall.

“I took one look at her, and I guess I must have fallen in love.”

— Jack Raybin, about when he first met his wife

“Captain, they all should be the best,” she said.

When he returned from Panama, he went back to City College but then transferred to Baruch College, where he majored in business administration. After graduation, he got a job in the field working for a wholesale liquor company. After retiring at 65, he began working at his son-in-law’s company which deals with the laser industry until he was 96, helping with the books and the business side of the operation.

“I was in good health, so I kept working,” he said.

Raybin’s wife, Anne, said the couple moved to Setauket 52 years ago due to its proximity to the beach and the Long Island Rail Road. They raised their children Linda and Paul in the Three Village area.

The two met at Banner Lodge in Connecticut in 1947, and eight months later were married. The centenarian said he remembered she came to the lodge visiting a friend.

“I took one look at her, and I guess I must have fallen in love,” he said.

He said he also remembers taking her on the Ferris wheel where he put his arm around her in the hopes of making out with her.

His wife also remembers the encounter.

“He may be quiet, but he makes his moves,” Anne Raybin said.

When it comes to marital advice, Jack Raybin said it’s about give and take.

“You got to treat your partner as a partner,” he said.

Raybin has seen a lot of change in the world since he was growing up in Brooklyn. He said he remembers going to the store for his mother to pick up ice to keep food cold in an icebox and keeping items such as milk outside the window on a platform in the winter. The centenarian said he still calls a refrigerator an icebox. His family would also have to go to a store if they had a phone call, he said, as the neighborhood phone was in a nearby candy store. An employee would run to a person’s apartment to tell them they had a call, and then they would have to walk down to the store.

Raybin is a grandfather to five and great-grandfather to one, and he said he’s always willing to share his stories about the old days with his family.

“If they’re interested, they’ll ask me about it, and I’ll tell them,” he said.

Eleanor Davis with a photo of herself as a little girl with her mother and brother. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

As far as birthdays go, this year’s was an extra special one for Eleanor Davis. The Port Jefferson resident celebrated her 100th birthday last Sunday surrounded by family and friends. A second birthday celebration on a grander scale is planned for May with a three-day trip to Cooperstown with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and more.

Born in Philadelphia on Jan. 6, 1919, Eleanor lived in Mount Holly, New Jersey, until the age of 8 when her father, who was a physician, bought a practice in Floral Park. While visiting a friend in Port Jefferson during the summer of 1944 she met her future husband, Chester “Ritchie” Davis. They eventually settled in the village and raised their three children, Laurie, Patricia and Chester, in a charming historic home on Prospect Street.

In the days leading up to her milestone birthday, I had the privilege of spending some time with Eleanor as she reminisced about her long life and answered some questions for, as she likes to say, “her 15 minutes of fame.”

What do you want people to know about you?

I have three claims to fame: I took a parachute jump at the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Queens; I’ve been up in the original Goodyear Blimp; and I’m related to Buffalo Bill by marriage (my father’s cousin was married to Buffalo Bill).

Who is your favorite president so far?

Ronald Reagan. He was a very personable person.

What was one of most tragic events in history for you?

The most tragic event to me was the [Nazi] concentration camps but it was also upsetting when the U.S. government took the Japanese and put them in an encampment. They took away their businesses and everything which was a terrible thing to do. The assassination of JFK was sad and the bombing of Pearl Harbor was also a terrible thing. Those boys were all on their ships and they all went down and couldn’t get out.

Do you remember the Great Depression?

Vaguely, but it really didn’t affect my family that much — my husband suffered more with his family. Sometimes they didn’t have enough to eat. His father couldn’t work anymore because he had a very bad heart so his mother baked biscuits and cookies (cakes and pies on order) and the boys peddled it up and down the harbor as far as Poquott.

What technology are you most impressed about? Cell phones? Computers?

Oh, the ones I don’t like! I hate those iPad things and of course the fancy phones — you can do every but make coffee on them! My son is always finding out information for me on them … but I think it’s too bad that nobody talks to anybody anymore but that’s the way of the world these days, you know?

Who is your favorite historical figure?

I remember going to the library at the age of eight and getting hooked on Mary Queen of Scots — I’m still hooked on Mary Queen of Scots — she was a fascinating person.

Have you traveled?

I’ve camped in Ohio, explored caves down in Kentucky and visited Utah and New Orleans. I loved New Orleans. I’ve also been on the QE2 to Scotland twice, the second time to see the Edinburgh Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. 

What’s left on your bucket list?

I’ve always wanted to go to Venice. 

Do you have a favorite movie?

My favorite is “Love With the Proper Stranger” with Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood. My daughter loves that film also. 

Do you have a favorite actor?

I would have to say Jimmy Stewart. I had two albums (scrapbooks) as a kid. I collected everything I could get on him — every picture, every article that came out. I wish I still had that. I also liked Margaret Sullivan.

What has been your favorite decade so far?

The 1940s. The early ’40s when I was living in New Jersey was the best time of my life. I had a job I liked and I lived with six girls in a boarding house. We paid $12 a week with meals and refrigerator privileges; we could do laundry in the basement — whatever we wanted to do. [The landlady] didn’t care if we had parties or not. The girls were all different and I was always going to write a book about that time but I never did — that was my secret ambition.

What advice would you give to a young person starting out in life?

Well, my favorite expression is, “Go with the flow.” I suppose that’s the easy way out but I’m not much of an arguer. Also to not worry so much. Sometimes people worry about something that isn’t worth a hoot and a holler in the long run. And you have to find humor in things. Everything is funny if you look at it close enough.

Ingrid Herland, second from left, sits surrounded by family: from left, son Warren, daughter Martha and son-in-law Don Richtberg. Photo by Donna Newman

By Desirée Keegan & Donna Newman

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) joined with the Mount Sinai Senior Citizens Club to recognize centenarian Beatrice Caravella at her 100th birthday bash on Sept. 6.

Born Beatrice Mercatante on Sept. 9, 1916, in Brooklyn to parents who emigrated from Sicily, she met her husband Fred while attending church, and together they had two children, Marilyn and Richard.

Beatrice and Fred Caravella were instrumental in spearheading a Pentecostal Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They lived in Richmond Hill and Franklin Square before retiring to Miller Place. She was widowed in 1985, after 41 years of marriage.

Caravella is an avid reader and in retirement happily volunteered her time and service in hospitals, nursing homes and churches to help those less fortunate than herself.

Today she has four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She still lives in her own home and celebrated her milestone birthday with her family and friends.

Beatrice Caravella, center, celebrates her 100th birthday with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and other family and friends. Photo from Town of Brookhaven
Beatrice Caravella, center, celebrates her 100th birthday with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and other family and friends. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

The Mount Sinai Senior Citizen Club celebrated Caravella’s centennial birthday with coffee and cake at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Romaine and Bonner presented her with a proclamation declaring Sept. 9, 2016, as Beatrice Caravella day in the Town of Brookhaven.

Out in Setauket, the Energizer bunny has got nothing on Ingrid Herland.

She celebrated her 106th birthday Sept. 18 with a whole weekend of partying. She shared birthday cake with her friends at Sunrise of East Setauket on Saturday and planned to spend Sunday with family at her daughter’s home.

Herland is an inspirational example of the power of positive thinking. A poetry lover, she recites verse from memory, some that she has written herself and some favorite poems — with a little Shakespeare thrown in for good measure.

Ingrid attended New York University, and said biology was her favorite subject. She left before graduation to marry and raise a family. She has three children: Warren and twins, born on Washington’s Birthday, George and Martha; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild she is looking forward to meeting at Christmastime.

Asked if she could share the secret for long life, she replied, “I never thought about it at all. I took it one year at a time. I went with the flow.” And that’s the secret. Son-in-law Don Richtberg said, “She is the most accepting person I have ever known. She seems to find the good in everyone — and everything.” And the best way to handle getting old? “You just have to be a good sport about it,” she said.

Family is the most important thing in Mario's life. She celebrated her 108th birthday in February. Photo from Elaine Campanella

Much has changed since Anna Mario lived in her first-floor Brooklyn apartment back in the 1920s.

In those days, people were friendlier, they said hello to each other, and they were more attached to their friends and neighbors, according to the 108-year-old, who now lives in St. James Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“People are more independent now. They don’t help each other, they think they are better than you,” Mario said. “I don’t want to be better than anyone, I want to be what I am and I’m happy,” she said.

A positive outlook has always played a part in her life, according to Mario’s daughter Elaine Campanella of Hauppauge.

“She’s got a good attitude,” Campanella said. “She believes that anything you do, you do with happiness. She says if you smile, the world smiles back at you.”

One of seven children, Mario was born in New York City in 1907. She worked in the garment industry as a machine operator in a factory that made pajamas.

“I worked most of my life and I loved every minute of it,” she said. “We made the most beautiful nightgowns.”

Mario’s husband passed away in 1975, but she stayed in Brooklyn until 1990 when she moved out to Port Jefferson Station. Campanella said her mother remained active after the move, taking bus trips to Atlantic City and participating in senior clubs, even becoming president of one.

According to Campanella, no one in Mario’s family has lived past 100 years old, let alone 108. Mario’s father died when he was 80 and her mother at 62.

Campanella doesn’t think there is a secret to her mother’s longevity, but she did say she always cooked well and she rarely took medication except for the occasional dose of Tums. Her faith always remained important to her.

“If anyone was in trouble or sick she would say a prayer and say it was in God’s hands,” Campanella said.

She said her mother always lived a simple life, never shying away from crises but always handling it as best she could.

“She always tells everyone that if you have a problem, you deal with it. If there is nothing you can do, then you move on.”

Mario lived on her own until she was 106 years old, doing all of her own cooking and cleaning. Heart problems that year put her in the nursing home, where she has been ever since.

“I have a nice life here,” Mario said of the nursing home. “Everyone is friendly and I have a nice time. If I can’t be home, this is the place to be. They make me feel at home.”

She occasionally leaves the nursing home to join her family for holidays and special events, she said.

According to Lori Sorrentino, recreational therapist at St. James, Mario keeps busy practicing tai chi, socializing with friends, dancing in her wheelchair at facility dance events and playing Bingo, one of her favorite pastimes.

Sorrentino called Mario “very spunky,” adding that she has had a great attitude since coming to the facility over a year ago.

“She is very funny and very inspirational. She is just full of life and age does not stop her,” Sorrentino said. “She always says that its good friends and family that keep her going.”

Mario’s family includes four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Campanella said her mother hates to see the younger generation glued to iPods and cell phones.

“It’s just not social — she sees it as detachment,” Campanella said. “It hurts her.”

At her 108th birthday celebration last month, Mario made a toast to her family, urging them to avoid that detachment.

“She made everyone cry when she said how much she wanted the family to stay together,” Campanella said. “Family is what she loves about life. That is her philosophy.”

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Mildred Kramer, above, celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday in Belle Terre. Photo by by Caitlin Ferrell

By Caitlin Ferrell

Mildred Kramer celebrated her centennial Monday, reaching a milestone fewer than .02 percent of Americans do.

The Belle Terre resident was born April 30, 1912, and spent her 100th birthday with several family members and friends.

Though undiagnosed, her family and friends believe she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. “She doesn’t realize what’s happening,” Kramer’s niece, Maureen Schecher, said.

Because of Kramer’s disintegrating memory, most of her early life is a mystery, though Schecher said Kramer was born in Far Rockaway and grew up in Queens. Her parents died in their 40s and Kramer was raised by her step-sister, Mary “Marnie” Flood. Kramer also had two younger sisters, Fidelis and Nora. Her three sisters passed away decades ago.

After graduating from Our Lady of Wisdom, a Catholic high school, “She started working right away,” Schecher said about her aunt.

On October 11, 1941, she married her husband Robert, who died six years ago at the age of 97. The couple met on a double date, according to family friend John Surace.

“She was with the other guy and he was with the other girl,” Surace said. “And Bob leaned over to the guy and said, ‘I’m goin’ to take her.’”

Mildred Kramer is all smiles with her late husband Robert. Photo from Maureen Schecher
Mildred Kramer is all smiles with her late husband Robert. Photo from Maureen Schecher

The couple moved to a small apartment in Hempstead. Robert Kramer worked as an engineer for Republic Aviation Corp. and Mildred Kramer worked as a secretary to the Supreme Court in Nassau County.

“The biggest part of her life was her marriage to my uncle and her career at the courthouse,” Schecher said. Colleagues called her the “walking encyclopedia” for her vast knowledge.

Friends describe Mildred Kramer as smart and serious, happy and loving.

Schecher said that at the age of 58, her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and was told she would only have five years to live. She retired soon after, and the Kramers moved from Freeport to Belle Terre.

“She thought it was time to go and start a new life,” Schecher said.

Nancy Henry, a longtime neighbor, recalled meeting the Kramers more than 30 years ago, when they lived around the corner. “She was a beautiful woman,” Henry said. “She still is, for a 100-year-old woman.”

Mildred Kramer and Henry began playing weekly games of Mahjong. “There were ten of us who played,” Henry said. Kramer played Mahjong while her husband golfed.

The couple also owned a boat and would go on day trips. Robert Kramer would fish.

When he reached his 80s, arthritis hit his joints. At the same time, his wife’s eyesight began to worsen. Henry said that Robert Kramer would drive her to the grocery store and wait while she did the shopping. He also took her to the beauty parlor every week to get her hair done.

“They were just such nice people,” Henry said.

Mildred Kramer still has her hair done every week and gets a manicure every two weeks. She has a bit of ice cream every night as well as a little John Begg scotch – continuing a tradition from her marriage.

“I think if she knew what was going on, she’d be amazed that she did it,” Schecher said. The centenarian has stayed in the same house she shared with her husband, with a live-in nurse, Cherry.

Friends visited Monday to celebrate Kramer’s 100th birthday. They brought cards and balloons, squeezed her hands and told her how extraordinary it all was. A card from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sat on the table next to cards and flowers from friends and family. Schecher served ice cream cake on 100th birthday plates. She had to order the plates online because no party store had them in stock. The party didn’t last long, as the guest of honor grew tired and needed to lie down for a nap.

“She’s very comfortable, she’s in her own home,” Henry said. “She was always very good with all the people she knew. She was very friendly, very helpful, she was thought of in a very fond way.”