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Centenarians offer lessons to live by

by CASEY FABRIS The Philadelphia Inquirer on June 13, 2014 10:55 AM

PHILADELPHIA — When Daniel Rendine Sr. celebrates his birthday next month, there’s talk of a golf outing with his son.

It’s a big birthday for Rendine: the big 105.

Rendine is an avid golfer. He says he has a handicap of only two.

The Roxborough native practiced law until he was 101.

The secret to his longevity, he says, is doing everything in moderation. “I won’t turn down a drink, but I won’t go overboard with a drink,” he said.

[PHOTO: Daniel Rendine, born July 24, 1909, smiled during the 14th Annual Centenarian Celebration at  a union hall on Tuesday in Philadelphia. The city established the event honoring its 100-year-old residents in 2001 to mark the anniversary of the completion of the historic century-old City Hall. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)]

Rendine was one of more than 100 centenarians honored Tuesday at a luncheon hosted by Mayor Michael Nutter. The event was held at Penn’s Landing Caterers/The Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall.

The celebrity guest was Anna Henderson, 114. To applause, the oldest Philadelphian was wheeled into the dining room by two of her grandchildren and wore a white dress with a purple scarf and an elaborate veil to match.

Among the photographers who gathered around her was a small girl in a pink ensemble of her own, scrambling to get a picture of Henderson with her iPod touch.

They were separated by 108 years. “I went up to see the sixth-oldest person in the world,” said Abby Painter, age 6, who took the day off from school to celebrate her great-great-aunt, Martha Campbell, who is a mere 99.

Nutter meandered around the tables throughout the 14th annual Mayor’s Centenarian Celebration, taking photos and even selfies with those in attendance. He declared Tuesday to be Centenarian Day in the city.

More than 470 centenarians live in Philadelphia, which has one of the highest concentrations of centenarians in the country, the mayor said.

Desiree Peterkin-Bell, city representative and emcee for Tuesday’s event, said that this year alone 182 Philadelphians will turn 100.

Peterkin-Bell complimented the attendees on their style, saying she had noticed at least a few pairs of shoes she just “had to get.”

Many of the celebrated centenarians dressed in their Sunday best, donning white hats, dapper suits, or dresses with sparkles. There for her first luncheon since turning 100, Lena Criniti wore a tiara.

Two of the most celebrated centenarians were Henderson, who is the sixth-oldest person on the planet — validated by the Gerontology Research Group — and Rendine, who at 104 was the oldest man honored.

Henderson was accompanied by her two youngest grandchildren, Joy and Ryan Henderson, and her great-grandson Andre Henderson, who is 6.

Joy said her grandmother was excited for the luncheon, especially getting to see the mayor.

Her grandmother always seems to recognize the time of year when the luncheon is approaching, Joy said. The centenarians were served luncheon soup, chicken or fish, and a dessert of a frothy white cake in the shape of the number 100.

Many visitors dropped by Henderson’s table, one of them Deron Patterson, a centenarian herself, at 101. “She’s one of my very good friends,” Patterson said.

The two know each other from church, where Patterson taught Sunday school, and have been friends for upward of 50 years.

Born on her father’s farm in Washington County, Ga., in 1900, Henderson moved to Philadelphia when she was 22 after a young black man was lynched. Married to a railworker named Rembert Louis Henderson in 1925, they had eight children together.

The centenarians gathered Tuesday reflected on the secret to their longevity, and each credited something different.

Lucy Merrick, 102, credited her long years to not eating junk food. Ida McDougal, 101, said she didn’t have a secret to her longevity. She said, “I just leave it up to God.”

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