image description
Aunt Bennie clowning around.
image description
Jennie Bright interviews Warren and Mary Scamman.
image description
Aunt Bennie and the Rev. David Raymond of St. Mary's Church.
image description
Surrounded by paparazzi.
image description
Cutting one of three cakes at the party.
image description
Greeting friends.

Cheshire Woman Is Fourth Oldest in the World

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story
Bernice 'Aunt Bennie' Madigan reads a quacking birthday card at her 114th birthday party on Saturday.

Oldest Supercentennarians as of July 22

1) Misao Okawa of Japan; March 5, 1898
2) Jeralean Talley of Michigan; May 23, 1899
3) Susannah Jones of New York; July 6, 1899
4) Bernice Madigan of Massachusetts; July 24, 1899

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Bernice Madigan has set a goal to be the oldest person in the world.

She's been working on it for 114 years.

Known affectionately as "Aunt Bennie" to family members and the hundreds of friends she's made during her long, long life, Madigan is now the fourth oldest person in the world and the third oldest in the United States.

"Well, there are few ahead ... they have to die off," she laughed on Saturday as she held court under a tent at her annual birthday bash at Rolling Acres Farm.

Last year, she was No. 16.

Born in West Springfield on July 24, 1899, as Bernice Emerson, Madigan's family moved to Cheshire when she was a child. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 1918 to work for the government during World War I and later retired from the Treasury Department. She returned to Cheshire in 2007 to live with her niece, Elaine Daniels.

She's often credited her longevity to not having children. She and her late husband, Paul, who died in 1976, may not have had children but they found a family in the Silver Springs, Md., neighborhood where they lived for decades.

The birthday parties for Madigan began in the 1980s. Dozens of friends — old and new — as well as Madigan relatives continue to journey north to spent an afternoon with their beloved Aunt Bennie.

Madigan's slowed down a bit — no wild rides this year on fire trucks or in police cruisers — but she was happy to greet old friends and a passel of clowns who dropped by to entertain her.

"She's a wonderful person and so outgoing. I just love her," said Mary Scamman of Windsor, participating in a film being made by Paul Madigan's great niece Jennie Bright. "Everytime I come to visit her I bring her a little gift. She has a wonderful spirit."

Her husband, Pastor Warren Scamman of Peru Congregational Church and formerly of the Cheshire church, said Madigan "has a wonderful sense of humor."

The couple were among those sitting for interviews with Bright, an independent filmmaker from Los Angeles. Bright said she was inspired to create a film about Madigan by friend and documentarian Lucinda Davis.

"She said 'I can't believe you're not there making a film about her,'" said Bright between setups. "At a minumum it will be a nice family film, but depending how it comes together, it might be more exciting than that. It might go to a festival."

Madigan's been participating, too, but she said she's getting a little tired of the hoopla. She's disappointed about an encounter with National Geographic; the magazine took up her time earlier this year for an article about centenarians and DNA but she was missing from the story in the May issue.

"I don't want any more publicity," she said. Bright acknowledged Madison is a little leery of her film but hopes she'll be pleased when she gets to see some of the first cuts.

"I'd like to follow her to No. 1, that would be amazing," said Bright. "She seems to get so much energy from people."

Madigan does seem to thrive within the social network that surrounds her, ranging from doctors and local officials to her niece's young grandchildren.

"One reason she's able to live as long as she has is the love and care her family gives her," said Mary Scamman. "I think that keeps her alive."

Tags: Bernice Madigan,   birthday,   centenarian,   

13 Comments welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to

Hoosac Elementary Principal Invites Selectmen to Be Guests for a Day

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff

Principal Becky Sawyer invites the Selectmen to see a day in the life of students and faculty at Hoosac Valley Elementary.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen were invited to spend some time at Hoosac Valley Elementary School in Adams. 
Principal Becky Sawyer attended the board's Tuesday's meeting to issue the invitation to spend a day with the staff and students. Sawyer sees it as a way to not only get to familiarize themselves with the staff but also to see how the town's largest expenditure is being utilized.
"I know the school district occupies such a large percentage of your budget and I feel like it's only fair to let you come see what we're spending it on. What good work is being done with what we are getting [from the town]," Sawyer told the board. "We'd like to have our third-graders give a public tour of the building, and then ... have you shadow a teacher, and then we would invite you to have lunch and recess with our  children. 
"Which I can tell you is the best part of the day. It's the most fun that I have."
View Full Story

More Cheshire Stories