Cheshire Woman Marks 110 Years

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Bennie Madigan takes a turn around Rolling Acres Farm in Cheshire's antique fire truck.
Aunt Bennie Now 'Super' Woman


Madigan gives a radio interview to WTOP. The 110-year-old has given a number of interviews the past week.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Another year, another birthday. But for Bernice "Bennie" Madigan, this latest birthday has placed her in the world's most exclusive club — the supercentenarians.

Aunt Bennie, as she's affectionately known, turned 110 on July 24.

There are only about 350 to 400 people worldwide who can make the same claim, according to estimates by the Gerontology Research Group. Madigan's age is being authenticated for inclusion on GRG's carefully documented list of supercentenarians that's currently at 75 worldwide.

The state House of Representatives has declared her the state's oldest citizen (with the caveat of "believed to be") with a resolution last week recognizing the Cheshire resident's birthday. State Rep. Denis E. Guyer of Dalton, who introduced the resolution, was on hand Saturday to present it to Madigan at a bash in her honor at Rolling Acres Farm.

The magic number has brought Boston reporters trekking to the Berkshires farmhouse to interview her, and even a radio journalist from her old haunts near the nation's capital.

Ask Madigan what her secret to longevity is and she'll likely reply "no stress." She eats right, takes naps, walks the farm's long driveway with her walker, keeps her mind active with puzzles and word games, and plays the piano.

She was hospitalized last fall and sent home with hospice care, but quickly recovered. "Hospice fired me!" she joked.

The Boston Globe story on Madigan.
Here's a Boston Herald story.
All those things have no doubt play a factor in her long — and very healthy — life. But certainly her extended "family" has had a role in keeping the childless Madigan going.

Warm, witty and open, Madigan forged such strong friendships during her 90-odd years living in the Washington area that nearly 50 friends and neighbors made the trip to Cheshire to celebrate her birthday. Even her ophthalmologist from her old home in Silver Springs, Md., stopped in.

Some 150 old friends and new gathered under a tent at the farm on one of this summer's rare sunny days, just like they did a year ago for her 109th. An old friend, Kathy West, made a friendship quilt for her that everyone was invited to sign. There were cards and cake, proclamations and a "key" to the town.

"This has just been wonderful," said Madigan, after being serenaded the Who Knew? an affiliate group of the Sweet Adelines and in between the parade of friends who sat down to chat with her as soon as a seat opened up.


Sitting with former neighbors from Lanier Avenue in Silver Springs.
Bernice Emerson Madigan was born in 1899 in West Springfield, moving with her family to Cheshire at the age of 6. She didn't pay much attention to the mountains around her childhood home and left for Washington shortly after graduating from the former Adams High School.

She moved back just a couple years ago to live with her niece, Elaine Daniels and her husband, John. After years of city and suburb living, Madigan's been struck by beauty of her former hometown: "I never really noticed the mountains," she said. "Now I look out and they're just beautiful. The sky seems to go on and on."

Madigan's willing to talk about the past — the inaugurations she's attended, her work in the Treasury Department, her late beloved husband, Paul — but she'd much rather talk about what's happening now. And inviting everyone to her 111th birthday party.

It's a trait Bob Madigan of WTOP 103.5-FM in Washington noticed when he met Madigan years ago at a family reunion. He traveled to Cheshire to interview her once again.

"She's forward looking," he said.

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