CHESHIRE -- A bout with pneumonia this spring couldn’t slow down resident Bernice "Bennie" Madigan, and the world’s 16th oldest living person celebrated her 113th birthday at Rolling Acres Farm on Saturday afternoon.
"I’m hanging in there," Madigan, who is also the state’s oldest resident and the seventh oldest person in the United States, said from behind her birthday cake as friends and family members stopped to wish her well.
Madigan was feted by roughly 150 visitors Saturday, according to her niece and primary caregiver, Elaine Daniels.
"And she has visitors coming in August and October, and a few others who haven’t settled their plans yet," Daniels said.
Madigan lives with Daniels at Rolling Acres Farm, and Daniels, along with her sister, Marilyn Martin, and brother, Robert Emerson, care for Madigan with the help of aides.
Born in West Springfield in 1899, Madigan moved to Cheshire in 1906. After graduating from Adams High School in 1918, she moved to the Washington, D.C., area. In 1940, she retired on disability from her job with the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Madigan met her husband, Paul, in Washington, and they were married 50 years. Paul died in 1976. She has outlived a brother, Roy Emerson, and a sister, Marilyn Emerson Martin. She returned to Cheshire from Silver Springs, Md., in 2007.
Madigan said politics was always the topic of conversation in Washington, and she remains
"I want to be recognized," Madigan said.
Madigan has often pointed to not having the stress and worry of having children as the key to her longevity, and her age has landed her on television shows and gotten her involved in several studies, most recently donating blood this year so her genes could be studied as part of the Archon Genomics X Prize competition.
When asked if she had any advice for young people looking to live a life as long and healthy as hers, Madigan joked, "If I did, they wouldn’t listen to me anyway."
Daniels said she had been holding off on sending out invitations to the party after Madigan was briefly hospitalized because of two types of pneumonia. However, after rehabilitation at Williams town Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Madi gan was back home in May.
"She rallied so much. Rehab was the best thing for her," Daniels said. "We were going to downsize, but the more the merrier."
Madigan’s friends and family agree that her memory remains remarkable, and of all the technological developments Madigan has seen, the ones that stick out in that memory are flight and space exploration.
"I’ve seen the best of it and we lived in the best of it," she said.
Saturday’s celebration was the fifth installment of birthday parties held at the farm in Madigan’s honor, and she joked that her parties and the guests are generating economic activity for the area.
"I think it’s wonderful. I’m bringing stimulus to Berk shire County," she said.
Follow Michael J. Foster on Twitter: @NAT_DigitalMike.