The Mayor’s Centenarian Celebration

by Moriah Kelley

Today, I had the privilege of attending The 17th annual Mayor’s Centenarian Celebration at the SugarHouse Casino. The event was produced by the City of Philadelphia and Social Security Administration, with the theme being “Fortune Smiles on Centenarians.” Mayor Kenney presented remarks during a ceremonial program officially declaring today as “Centenarians Celebration Day in Philadelphia”. May is also national observance of Older Americans Month. Today, being surrounded by wisdom, love, laughter, and nostalgic stories of yesteryear has been inspiring.

There are 550 known Philadelphia Centenarians. 179 of them are turning 100 this year, according to the regional Social Security Administration, and about 100 of them joined in on today’s celebration. Mayor Kenney posed in front of a huge ceremonial “100” birthday cake with the oldest male centenarian in attendance- Dr. Eli P. Zebooker, a 104-year-old born in South Philadelphia, as well as Barnetta Williams, the oldest female in attendance who is 109 and lives in the Northeast section of our city. The Mayor also posed with each centenarian individually in a photo booth set up as a remembrance keepsake.

The Blackbird Society Orchestra played through the entire luncheon. During that time, I spoke with a few of the centenarians personally.

Ms. Edith Kutcher born November 19th, 1916. Ms. Kutcher assured me that she can still think and make decisions for herself despite being 100. For 30 years she worked as a librarian in the Northeast. Her secret to aging healthy is that each day she continues to work one librarian shift.

Ms. Josephine Cetera is one of the three oldest residences of Philadelphia. Born February 8, 1912, Ms. Cetera resides in her rowhome in Manayunk. According to her two daughters, Ms. Cetera is quite the neighborhood celebrity. She is know to receive visitors, cards and presents from people who have known her throughout the years.

Dr. Zebooker is a former Center City dentist. He has two children and has been married to his wife Janet for an impressive 70 years. His passion for collecting history of Philadelphia maps lead to an exhibition in 2010 named “Philadelphia Pieces on Paper” in the Athenaeum of Philadelphia (in Society Hill). Dr. Zebooker will also be featured in a book of centenarian portraits called If I Live to Be 100: The Wisdom of Centenarians, being published this year.

Ms. Williams spent most of her years in Alabama. She is mother to one son, David, and she moved to Philadelphia in 2016 to be near her great-grand daughter in the city’s Mayfair section. Those who were with her today say she still is as witty than ever.

As the Centenarian Celebration was winding down, attendees tapped along to the performances of the South Philadelphia Line Dancers.

The Mayor’s Centenarian Celebration was established in 2001 as part of our city’s efforts to mark the anniversary of the completion of the historic century-old City Hall (1901). The Centenarian Celebration is a wonderful Philadelphia tradition that I hope will continue well into the future to honor those who have helped build our city.

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