800 candles: Eight centenarians celebrate joint birthday bash under one Crown Heights roof • Brooklyn Paper

800 candles: Eight centenarians celebrate joint birthday bash under one Crown Heights roof

Cuter by the year: Mariana Gonzalez celebrated her 100th birthday with daughters Elsie Gonzalez and Heydre Gonzalez, and son William Gonzalez at a Crown Heights nursing home along with seven other advanced seniors.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

This nursing home has so many centenarians, they have to share a birthday cake!

No fewer than eight Brooklyn elders more than 100-years old celebrated a joint birthday bash at the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Crown Heights on April 21, which may have the borough’s largest population of super-seniors under one roof, according to one worker.

“I’ve been in the field for 15 years, and we used to have one, maximum two centenarians,” said Veronica Kaninska, recreation manager at the nursing home. “I do believe that we are one of the rare ones that have this number, if not the only one.”

Celebrating their ripe, old age on Friday were 103-year-olds Beulah Bullock and Patty Collins; 101-year-olds Isabella Green, Gertrude Jenkins, and Etienne Amable; 100-year-olds Julia Georges and Esther Hobson; and Mariana Gonzalez, who turns 100 in May.

The long-toothed ladies and gent predate commercial air travel, penicillin, nuclear power, micro chips, and television.

Amable, who was born in 1915 on the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, said his family didn’t have any automobiles, but had plenty of cows and horses on the island, which was then dominated by sugar-cane factories.

He immigrated to Brooklyn in 1963 — the same year Kennedy was assassinated — where he fathered a whopping 19 children and labored at Bellevue Hospital for nearly 40 years.

He claims Brooklyn hasn’t changed much in that time, but — either sagely or sardonically — noted that, “the people did.”

The venerable birthday guy and gals were served cake at the event, and joined by Rep. Yvette Clark (D–Crown Heights) and Councilman Robert Cornegy (D–Crown Heights), along with representatives of Borough President Adams and state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Crown Heights), who all came baring official citations in recognition of the elders’ respectable age.

A few of the honored oldsters weren’t feeling well enough to attend the party, but the group is generally very active despite their age, and they routinely make appearances at church and other events outside the nursing home, Kaninska said.

“They go to activities every day, or they do their own thing,” said Kaninska.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Old school: 101-year-old Etienne Amable immigrated from St. Lucia to Brooklyn in 1963, and worked at Bellevue Hospital for 40 years.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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