It was like a scene from a beauty pageant. Nine striking women, three of whom were Irish, sat side by side donned in summer colors with orderly haircuts and brightly shaded manicures.
Although it could very well have been a beauty pageant, it wasn’t. It was a celebration of life. A celebration of 100 years of life on this earth.
On Wednesday, June 24, the residents of St. Patrick’s Home for the Aged and Infirm in the Bronx threw a party to beat all parties.
Nine women (10 women turned 100 but one of the residents was sick the day for the party) sat proudly before their friends and family as they accepted citations from the offices of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz as a mark of their longevity.
As music played in the background and all those present ate cake, three of the celebrants took time out from the party to speak to the Irish Voice and IrishCentral.
Elizabeth Keosky, whose maiden name is McSherry, was at St. Joseph’s Hall in St. Patrick’s home on Wednesday to celebrate her 100th birthday.
Said Keosky, as she admired the fresh flowers that adorned the table in front of her, “It’s a lovely day for us.”
Keosky left Drumkeerin, County Leitrim for New York when she was 16.
“Oh, I worked in so many different jobs, up town and down town when I came here first,” recalls Keosky, who spent most of her life living in Inwood, a heavily populated Irish section of Manhattan in the 1950s. She had one child.
Keosky, wearing a yellow suit, never was a big bingo fan.
“I love music though, that was always my thing,” she said.
“I used to play the flute and a little bit of the accordion and I was good,” she said proudly.
Keosky, who can’t remember how long she has been at St. Patrick’s, said there really was no secret to her living for 100 years but she never smoked a cigarette in her life.
“That might have something to do with it,” she said smiling gently.
“I’m happy sure,” she said.
Nudging her 100-year-old American friend sitting beside her Keosky said, “We’re good here aren’t we, we are okay so we are.”
Sitting down from Keosky and chatting to her son was Bridie Dillon, looking spritely for her age and wearing a blush pink outfit and a big smile.
Dillon, who will turn 100 in October, told the Irish Voice and IrishCentral she was shocked to find out Wednesday morning that there was a huge celebration.
“I never knew anything,” said Dillon with a hearty laugh. “And then I got here and my son and family were here for me, and it is just great.”
Dillon, who has been a resident of St. Patrick’s for the past year and a half, left the small village of Cluna, County Clare when she was 17 and spent most other life working as a maid for people in Manhattan.
Jim Dillon, her only child, was very proud of his mother, as were his children, Emily, 19, Charlotte, 17, and James, 14, on Wednesday.
“She is a fantastic person and we are delighted to be here to celebrate this special day with her,” said Jim, who works in finance.
Dillon, whose first husband Martin Dillon from Clare died in 1966, remarried another Irishman, also from Clare. He passed away four years ago.
Dillon used to be a frequent bingo player, but not anymore. She isn’t able. However, the Clare woman knows how to enjoy life.
“I like getting my nails done. Aren’t they pretty?” she said lifting her hands to admire her freshly coated pink manicure.
“They look good,” she said proudly.
Mary Turner, 99 (she will turn a century in October), is an active Irish woman.
Dressed to kill, Turner sported a baby blue dress with a pearl necklace. She wanted to make the day special.
Turner was born in Liverpool to parents from County Louth and County Dublin. In 1928 she left Liverpool and came to New York.
Turner, who never married, worked at various hospitals in the city for most of her life.
Turner, who has been in St. Patrick’s for 12 years, said she has made a lot of good friends in the home and joins in all the activities.
“I really enjoy it here and the activities. I keep the bright side out,” in a strong Liverpool accent.
As the celebrations continued late into the afternoon, most of the 264 residents of St. Patrick’s stopped by for some cake and sausage rolls.
As Frank Sinatra’s famous “New York, New York” played in the background, several of the residents danced with the staff.
Seeing how much she wanted to get on the floor, Jim Dillon asked his mother to dance and for the next few minutes the mother and son shared a special moment as Dillon’s grandchildren looked on with smiles on their faces.
But there was no bigger smile in the room that day than on Bridie Dillon’s face as her son took her in his arms and together they worked the room with gentle steps.