A milestone birthday was celebrated at Jefferson’s Ferry in South Setauket recently.
Jeanette Parker, who has called the retirement community location her home for 12 years, turned 100 years old on July 10 and was able to celebrate the momentous occasion with family members, including her three daughters, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“I don’t know how I got here, truthfully,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m just as surprised as anyone else.”
Her daughter Judith Visconti, of Setauket, was on hand for the celebration.
“I feel I’m very, very fortunate to have my mother still at this stage,” she said. “Not only do I have her, but she’s as smart as could be.”
The centenarian said while she didn’t have advice for longevity, she thinks a few good habits may have contributed to her long life.
“Truthfully, I don’t have any secrets,” she said. “I never smoked, and I never drank much — just once in a while for social reasons — and I was never a big eater.”
Parker, who was born in Brooklyn in 1921, married Charles Parker when she was 21. He was drafted into the Army Signal Corps shortly after they were married, and they were apart for four years. It wasn’t until 1992 for their 50th anniversary that they were able to have the large party that they never had for their wedding, according to Visconti.
In addition to Visconti, their first child, the couple had two more daughters, Anita and Carol. The children grew up in Queens, and while living in the borough and raising her daughters, Parker was active in Hadassah, an American Jewish volunteer women’s organization. Her husband ran a trucking business with his brother in New York City’s Garment District, and after he retired due to poor health, his wife started working for a real estate business in the city.
The couple moved to Coram in 1982 where they lived in the Bretton Woods condo development to be closer to their children and grandchildren on Long Island. Parker started the Bretton Woods Players. She always enjoyed music and singing, she said, but chose to stay behind the scenes writing and producing the annual musical shows from 1983 to 1992. Her husband painted the scenery for them. The couple also enjoyed playing golf, and Jeanette Parker was on the women’s golf team.
Visconti said her father loved to swim and looked for a winter home in a place where he could do so even during the colder months, and her parents bought a place in Fort Lauderdale. When he found the waters were still too cold in Florida during the winter months, the Parkers looked into a place in Puerto Rico and the two bought a condo on the island in 1989.
A few years after Charles Parker died in 1995, it was on the island of Puerto Rico where Jeanette Parker met Jose Hernandez walking along the beach. The two wound up dating and were together for 11 years, something she believed was her late husband’s intervention because he didn’t want her to be alone.
“I always say my mother was always lucky in love,” Visconti said.
While one of Parker’s daughters lives in Massachusetts and another in Westchester County, she said they stay in touch with her regularly. She was thrilled to celebrate her milestone birthday with her family after them not being able to visit during the pandemic due to COVID-19 restrictions.
When it comes to going through difficult times, Parker had advice.
“Keep busy,” she said. “That’s the main thing. Keep doing things that satisfy you.”