2016 Senior Citizens of the Year
Over 280 people turned out to mark Older Americans Month on May 16th, as the Office for the Aging held the 18th annual Celebration of Aging luncheon. During the ceremony, County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro presented Dutchess County Senior Citizen of the Year Awards to Nancy and Dr. William Aierstok of Red Hook, Evelyn O’Brien of Red Hook and Dr. Irv Miller of Poughkeepsie. Muriel Horowitz of Poughkeepsie was honored with a Senior Achievement Award.
Every May, during Older Americans Month, the Dutchess County Office for the Aging recognizes the outstanding contributions older Americans make in our community by selecting Senior Citizens of the Year from nominations received from the general public.
Our 2016 Senior Achievement Award winner, Muriel Horowitz treats every place she goes as a place where people can learn, whether it’s a school, a nursing home, a house of worship or something else entirely. She’s the founder of the Dutchess Interfaith Council Story Circle and has been active in bringing food to needy Poughkeepsie residents through her work on behalf of the CROP Walk and the Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition. For doing so much to feed the mind and body, Muriel Horowitz is this year’s Senior Achievement Award winner!
This year’s Female Senior Citizen of the Year is Evelyn O’Brien, from Red Hook, and when she’s not volunteering all around northern Dutchess County, she’s teaching dance classes to her fellow seniors. And she’s pretty strict about attendance, going so far as to check in on students when they’re under the weather, and picking up other students in her van when they’re not feeling up to driving to class. For her boundless energy and commitment to her friends and community, Evelyn O’Brien has well earned this year’s award as Dutchess County’s female Senior Citizen of the Year!
Our male Senior Citizen of the Year, Dr. Irv Miller has made it his life’s work to help students of all ages improve their academic skills – particularly in mathematics and science. Irv founded and continues to operate the “Math Physics Explore Museum” on Route 55 in Lagrangeville. And when he’s not helping people get their minds moving, he’s getting their legs moving as a member of the Mid Hudson Road Runners Club and director of the annual Dutchess County Classic race. Irv relaxed at the Celebration for just a little while, as he received this year’s Male Senior Citizen of the Year award!
Our Senior Couple of the Year are Nancy Aierstok and Dr. William Aierstok. Both have been deeply involved at the Baptist Home in Rhinebeck, where Nancy serves on the board of the home and Dr. Aierstok is close to the 40-year mark as its medical director. Nancy Aierstok also teaches at the Baptist Home and at Renaissance in Hyde Park. They fell in love with Dutchess County the first time they drove over the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge in the 1970’s, and on June 1st they’ll have been married for 55 years. Congratulations to Nancy Aierstok and Dr. William Aierstock, our Senior Citizen Couple of the Year!
Couples Married 70 Years or More
America’s longest-married couple lives near us in southwestern Connecticut and have been married since 1932. That’s 83 years and counting. And there’s a couple in England who celebrated their 90th wedding anniversary back in December.
The first of our honorary couples, Otto and Louise Tatar, went on their first date on Valentine’s Day, 1946 after meeting at work at IBM. They were engaged by April and married that summer. By 1949 they had moved to Rhinebeck and the home where they still live today. They’ve been active volunteering at Memorial Lutheran Church in Rock City and at Northern Dutchess Hospital, as well as the Masonic Temple, the Shriners and the Order of the Eastern Star – and in late July they’ll celebrate 70 years of marriage!
The Tatars came to the Celebration of Aging with our second couple: May and Andrew Ambrosio. The Ambrosios met at an automobile factory in Brooklyn and were married in Connecticut while Andrew served in the Coast Guard. May and Andy moved to Dutchess County in 1964 and later both worked on James Cagney’s estate in Stanfordville, May as a personal assistant and Andy in farm maintenance. If you were here last year you’ll remember that the Ambrosios both have a strong love of Frank Sinatra’s music, especially the song New York, New York! This past January, May and Andrew Ambrosio celebrated 71 years of marriage.
When Dorothy and Tom Schiesel are asked how the two of them met, usually they answer ”In a bar.” It’s after the day they met that it gets complicated, because Tom had to ship out in a Merchant Marine convoy the very next day. He traveled on five convoys, and every time he arrived back in New York, Dottie greeted him. They wanted to get married, but agreed they should wait until World War 2 was over. Two more convoys and he arrived back in New York in early 1946. They got married two days later – but he had to ship out yet again to meet his military obligations. He was only supposed to be gone two weeks, down to the Caribbean and back, but his ship ended up being diverted a little bit: to Fiji, on the other side of the world. Six months later, Dottie caught up with Tom in Baltimore and this time he was home to stay… for 70 years and counting.
Anna and Andrew Fishburn are originally from South Carolina, and they have a lot in common with several of the other couples who have been married 70 years or more. Anna and Andrew got married during World War II, in 1943, and like so many of the other long-time married men of that time, Andrew joined the U.S. military - the Navy, where he served with the Seabees. Anna and Andrew moved north to Poughkeepsie in the 1960’s. Anna worked at Hudson River State Hospital and Andrew worked at IBM for 30 years. They have one child and six grandchildren – and in June they will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary!
Evelyn and Norman Myers met when Norman was a soldier at West Point. They were married in 1941 and raised one daughter while they worked as nurse’s aides. They both enjoyed singing in the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir in Poughkeepsie and believe the secret to their long marriage can be summed up in one word: “Love.” Evelyn and Norman celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary last December.
Lossie and Sam Lee were childhood sweethearts who married in Georgia, but have spent most of their lives in Fishkill. For several decades they were both members of the Fishkill Volunteer Fire Department and Lossie volunteered at the Fishkill Thrift shop. Since 1951 they have attended the Beulah Baptist Church in Wappingers Falls where Mr. Lee is a deacon and member of the men’s choir, and Mrs. Lee is a deaconess and secretary of the Sunday school. A last-minute illness prevented Sam from attending the 2016 Celebration – but Lossie came with her friends and family to celebrate their 76th wedding anniversary!
Residents over the age of 100 are the fastest growing segment of our nation’s population and their numbers are predicted grow to over one million in the next forty years. One hundred years ago, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill creating the National Park Service. Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Among the famous born in 1916 are Jackie Gleason, Dinah Shore, Harry James, Gregory Peck…and Olivia de Havilland from “Gone with the Wind”, who celebrates her 100th birthday on the first of July. Puppeteer Kermit Love, who lived in Stanfordville and designed legendary Sesame Street puppets Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and Big Bird, was also born in 1916.
As of May 16 the oldest living person in the world is Emma Morano of Italy, who is 116. Of the over 60 centenarians who live right here in Dutchess County, we were honored to welcome eleven from virtually every corner of our county.
The youngest of our 2016 centenarians is Alfred Dyer. He has been helping friends and neighbors in need for decades. He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served in Europe. Alfred worked at the Hudson River State Hospital for 30 years. He loves jazz and played the trumpet for many years! Also, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported that in April of 1955, Alfred was with his baby daughter Audrey down by the Hudson River when he noticed that there was a woman in the river drowning. He swam out and rescued her just in time. He was 100 percent a hero on that day, and he’s been a hero to the rest of his family as well, as he turns 100 years old!
Mary Summa was highly selective about where she wanted to retire after a long and fulfilling career teaching at an elementary school in Mount Vernon. And 30 years ago, after looking over dozens of potential places to retire, she chose Dover as her new home - although she still isn’t fully retired. She’s still teaching piano to kids all over Dover…and when it came time to deliver her list of guests for today’s celebration, she drove over the mountain from Dover and brought the guest list to the Office For the Aging in person! And it was quite a list, as it looks like most of Dover was at the celebration with her, so let’s congratulate Mary Summa on turning 100 this past December!
Connie Caccoma was born in Italy and came to the US with her family through Ellis Island when she was 8 years old. She grew up in New York City initially and eventually her family moved to Poughkeepsie when her father was hired as a chef at the old Nelson House on Market Street. Connie married her husband Frank in 1938 and together they raised 5 children and were married for 31 years. The couple opened and ran the Collegeview Restaurant on Violet Avenue. Today, Connie lives in her own home with the support of her children and enjoys many hobbies including knitting, crocheting, reading, cooking and especially taking care of her cat, Eva. This July, Connie Caccoma will mark her 101st birthday!
Dorothy Peters grew up in Saugerties and worked as a book binder until she was 65. Along with her two sons, she also enjoyed raising Gordon setters. Dorothy says she’s surprised she has lived this long and credits her long life to not smoking or drinking and being a good person. This past February Dorothy Peters celebrated her 101st birthday!
John Freni was born in New York City and graduated from the National Academy of Design. In 1936 he opened his first photography studio and just 3 years later won 1st prize in the Daily News’s most beautiful child photo contest. John married his wife Josephine that same year and they spent 72 wonderful years together. The couple would often spend summers in Dutchess County – and loved it so much they moved here permanently in 1952 where they opened the John Lane Studio. John continues to stay active painting, carving, playing poker and attending the Poughkeepsie Senior Center. A happy 102nd birthday to John!
The youngest of 12 children, Hulda Sellingsloh was President of her High School Class and went on to study law. She has been a member of the Texas Bar Association for over 75 years. Hulda moved to Beacon with her late husband August where together they raised four successful children. Hulda discovered a talent for painting and poetry late in life and even had one her poems published at the age of 100. She believes the key to happiness is doing some type of productive work. Hulda Sellingsloh, a regular attendee at our Senior Prom - celebrated her 103rd birthday last November.
Daniel Lichtenberg was born and raised in the Bronx and has been a book collector since the age of 5. When he tried to go into the book collecting business as a college student, he says he found out quickly it was a good way to starve to death. His girlfriend at the time wouldn’t marry him until he had a real job – so Daniel went to college and had a long career in social work. Longer still was his 70 year marriage to that girlfriend – his first wife Ann. Daniel is joined today by his second wife Pearl who he met while buying books. He says his aspiration since he was young was to be retired and that one of his greatest pleasures in life is talking (and going to book sales). Last November Daniel turned 103 years young!
Louise Carione is a lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley, born in the city of Newburgh and living for many years in New Windsor with her husband John, to whom she was married for over 60 years. These days, Louise lives in Wappingers Falls. She’s a proud mother to two children, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren – and in April she celebrated her 104th birthday!
Mary Autera is the second generation of her family to reach the 100-year-mark, as her mother lived to be 105. Mary also has an aunt who was a centenarian, and her dad lived to be 98. Mary is originally from the Bronx. She and her husband bought a “country house” in Hopewell Junction. They brought their children there every summer to vacation until they eventually made it their permanent home in the 70’s. Mary is a strong believer in staying active and not sitting around. She enjoys a variety of activities at the Pines at Poughkeepsie including exercise, music, playing games, religious services and staying social. This summer Mary will match her mother, and mark birthday number 105.
One of our few male centenarians, Harold Goldstein loves to email and surf the internet! He is also a proud member of the Beacon Sloop Club and supporter of their environmental preservation activities. He calls himself the “ancient mariner” and built has built several boats in his lifetime. Up until a few years ago he would still sail solo on Sylvan Lake. Always favoring us with a wise word, this August, the very quick witted Harold Goldstein will mark birthday number 107!
This brings us to our oldest honoree.
The term “Supercentenarian” is used to describe any centenarian who has lived to or passed their 110th birthday. The chance of any 100 year old living past this age is about 1 in 1,000. Although there are thought to be over 300 supercentenarians living today – the number of “officially verified” supercentenarians numbers less than 150 in the entire world. To be officially verified, their birth date must be validated by an international body widely recognized for longevity research. We tell you all of this, because Dutchess County’s first Supercentenarian was back with us again this year. Vera Van Wagner was born in 1904 when Theodore Roosevelt was president, the New York City subway system was still under construction, and a brand-new snack item called the ice cream cone was invented. Vera moved to Poughkeepsie as a young girl and was married to her husband Thurlow for 64 years. Vera lived in her own home well into her 100’s with help from her family, and currently resides at the Baptist Home in Rhinebeck. Right now she is the oldest living person in both Dutchess County and all of New York State, the 9th-oldest person in the United States and the verified 46th-oldest person in the world (as of May 2016) – at the Celebration of Aging, just eight days shy of her 112th birthday - Ms. Vera Van Wagner.