PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia paid tribute to more than 100 of its most senior seniors at the 17th annual Mayor’s Centenarian Celebrations, one of the largest in city history.
It was a party complete with cake, paparazzi, and 110 centenarians.
“Take care of yourself, eat a lot of vegetables…and oh, how I love dancing– so dance!” said Katherine Appocello, affectionately called “Kitty” by her family, who shared some of her secrets to longevity.
Appocello was born in the coal mining region of Pennsylvania. She moved to Philadelphia at age 14 and has spent the rest of her life in the far Northeast.
She says she’s polka’ed her way through life, then she polka’ed her way into a photo with Mayor Jim Kenney.
“She’s been chasing me around all day,” said Kenney, who took time to be photographed with every centenarian who wanted a picture. “They lived through World War II and it’s important that they know we care about them and appreciate their service in keeping our country safe, free, and prosperous.”
At 109 years young, Miss Barnetta Williams was the oldest in attendance at the luncheon. The former hairdresser and baker spent most of her life in Alabama, but moved to Philadelphia to be closer to her great-granddaughter Darlene Callands.
She loves to cook and feed her family (pound cake and dumplings are her specialties). She says her secret to a long life has been no smoking, drinking, or trips to the dance floor.
“I don’t dance,” she said, “and never did.”
At 104, Dr. Eli Zebooker, a longtime dentist, was the oldest man in attendance. The Society Hill resident married his love Janet 71 years ago.
He says his secret to a long life and long marriage is the same.
“If there’s love there– there’s no questions,” he said.
Dr. Zebooker is an avid collector of history, having served in the U.S. Army during WWII. He has a collection of world maps at his apartment, some dating back to the 18th century.
Dr. Zebooker will also be featured in a new book, titled: “If I Live To Be 100: The Wisdom of Centenarians.”
The ultimate advice on longevity came from Judy Jacobs, who turns 100 this year.
“Take it one day at a time, one step at a time, and the next thing you you know– you’re there,” she said.
Philadelphia is home to 550 centenarians, 179 turned 100 this year.