Bernice Madigan, State's Oldest Woman, Marks 115 Years
|Aunt Bennie Madigan a few months ago celebrating Derby Day at Rolling Acres Farm. Madigan turned 115 on Thursday.|
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The state's oldest citizen celebrated her 115th birthday on Saturday with what has become a traditional party at Rolling Acres Farm.
This year was a little different, however, as a cheerful Bernice Madigan greeted well-wishers from her bed rather than under the big tent on the lawn.
The supercentenarian was still recovering after a fall on Monday had put her in the hospital for a week.
"It's been a long time coming," said Madigan. "But I'm doing much better."
Still a little drowsy from medication, "Aunt Bennie" welcomed old friends and Madigan family members who made the trip up from her former home in Maryland, and the new friends she's made since coming back to Cheshire in 2007. Selectman Paul Astorino presented her with another town proclamation recognizing her — to go along with the many cards and flowers she received.
Madigan, now the fifth oldest person in the world and the fourth oldest American (Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas was recently confirmed as the oldest American), was born in West Springfield on July 24, 1899. She spent her youth in Cheshire before setting off for Washington, D.C., at the age of 18 to help the war effort — for World War I.
She worked in the veterans administration and retired after more than 40 years at the U.S. Treasury Department.
Madigan has frequently credited her longevity to the fact she and her late husband, Paul Madigan, had no children.
"No muss, no fuss," she always laughs.
But throughout her long life, she's gathered a family of friends and relatives who's devotion is obvious.
"This has really perked her up," said her neice and caretaker Elaine Daniels on Saturday.
It was unclear up until Thursday whether the annual party — started in her 80s in Maryland and held for the last six years in Cheshire — would happen, or have its guest of honor.
"I told them she had to go home, she had a party on Saturday!" said Daniels of Berkshire Medical Center, where Madigan was "treated like royalty" for four days.
This year's party was a little more subdued, not quite as many people and no rides on fire engines or motorcycles to satisfy Madigan's need for speed. Rather, Daniels and Madigan joked, her "fast ride" had been in an ambulance.
"She's like the Energizer bunny," said Daniels. "She just keeps on going."
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