By Kaitlyn Foti
TOWAMENCIN >> Edna Massimilla is a songwriter, poet and reporter. Margaret Osteyee taught fighter pilots how to operate the gun sights on F4F Wildcats in the Navy. Billie Shaffer threw out the first pitch at a Reading Phillies game last year and Nellie Detterline will do the same in just a few weeks.
On Wednesday, however, these Montgomery County residents and about 55 more gathered to celebrate a different accomplishment. Each one has lived 100 years or more.
The Centenarian Celebration, held for the seventh year, was hosted by Dock Woods in Towamencin to honor some of the county’s oldest living residents.
“It’s a wonderful celebration,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, who was there for her second year in a row. “It is an acknowledgement of lives well-lived. I wish I knew their secret.”
In addition to lunch, the guests of honor were treated to renditions of “Happy Birthday” and cake, serenaded by Elvis impersonator Dean Garofolo and many had conversations with county commissioners Josh Shapiro, Arkoosh and Joe Gale.
The group of centenarians at the luncheon Wednesday represented the 338 county residents who have three digits in their age. Some gave their recipes for a long life, and one well-lived.
“Be honest. Don’t put on anything extra,” Osteyee said. “I think being honest with yourself and your friends, and you have to have a family that supports you.”
Osteyee was stationed in New York City during World War II and became a pistol expert, training fellow members of the Navy how to use gun sights.
“Everybody I knew was going to war, so I decided I should go, too,” she said.
Detterline, who is only weeks away from her 100th birthday, walks a half mile every day and said she is grateful that she is able to take care of herself and pay her bills.
“I really don’t have any secrets. When I was young we lived on a farm, it was nine acres, and we had a beautiful garden and fruit orchards,” Shaffer said. “I think that was a good start, a lot of fresh vegetables.”
Arkoosh, who was there with the rest of the board of commissioners, said she didn’t know the secret to living more than a century. As a physician, though, she gave some recommendations.
“All I can tell you is to get out on the trails and walk. That’s very important,” she said. “That and don’t smoke.”
However, when Nancy O’Donnell, executive director of Dock Woods, spoke to the centenarians, she said she found that the secret to longevity was no alcohol and no smoking, to which a few members of the centenarian crowd booed.
O’Donnell added the most important things was to “smile, and smile more.”