Madigan's niece, Elaine Daniels, cuts her birthday cake.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The state's oldest citizen will hit another birthday on July 24: 113 years.
Bernice "Aunt Bennie" Madigan is now the 16th oldest documented person in the world, and the 7th oldest in the United States. She's amongst a select number of "supercentarians," people who reached at least the age of 110. The Gerontology Research Project has verified 71 supercentenarians, but estimates there are between 350 and 400 in the world.
On Saturday, more than 100 friends and relatives once again gathered at Rolling Acres Farm to celebrate Madigan's latest milestone. The parties began when she returned to Cheshire in 2007 after spending 89 years in the Washington, D.C., area.
The annual get-togethers have allowed Madigan to keep in touch with her extended "family" from Silver Springs, Md. Madigan and her late husband, Paul, didn't have children (a lack of stress to which frequently credits her longevity) but they made many friends.
Her neighbors and Madigan relatives began hosting birthday parties for Madigan when she hit 80, a tradition that her niece, Elaine Daniels, continued when she came to live with her.
Still sharp of mind, Madigan welcomed dozens of well-wishers old and new — the seat next to her was filled as quickly as it emptied.
While she's been more than willing in the past to ride on a fire truck or in police cruiser, this year she was a little more sedate after bouts with pneumonia earlier in the year that required hospitalization and a stay at Williamstown Commons, which said she enjoyed.
"I'm better, I'm just hoping I can stay that way," said Madigan. "Elaine makes sure she gets me out as much as she can."
She's had to cut back on her walks down the farm's long driveway but still spends time putting together puzzles with friends and watching television. Madigan's also had to put a halt to her piano playing — but because the piano's not up to snuff.
"I brought it up from Washington and you'd be surprised what the weather does to a piano," she said, shaking her head. Despite a tuning, her instrument doesn't it like this far north. "I can't play that kind of music."
Madigan's been recognized by the state Legislature, the town and the president. She's been serenaded and, this year, entertained by some clowns from the Shriners. Her living room was filled with flower arrangements, and she was presented with two large cakes.
But it's obvious the best gift for Madigan has been the chance to visit — from cooing over the youngest Daniels at 2 months, to jesting with her hairdresser to swapping news with faraway friends.
"Oh, I have to talk to this lady right here before she goes," said Madigan, waving over a longtime friend. Minutes later, she was once again surrounded and catching up on the news.
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