Beyond A Century Of NY Minutes

NYC’s oldest living resident has witnessed much history that has come and gone and faded off into infinity. She is 111 years old and has experienced more than a century’s worth of New York minutes and hours, days and nights, highs and lows, etc.

Jane “Jenny” E. Gilsenan was born on Amsterdam Avenue and 98th Street in Manhattan on May 8, 1898; the very year that the City of New York was established with the consolidation of its five boroughs.

The solemn, ill-fated William McKinley was then President of the United States, no one ever expecting that the supercharged Theodore Roosevelt was destined to succeed him. A New Age in America was, in fact, quickly approaching and Gilsenan would see the 20th century’s entire spectrum of hope and despair, dreams and nightmares, progress and destruction, unfold.

She was the second eldest of six siblings of an Irish-immigrant family; they lived in a two-bedroom Upper West Side apartment rented for $16 a month. While Jane’s father worked for Macy’s, her mother worked as a cook for the New York Herald Tribune (she once cooked a meal for Mark Twain).

Her memories date back to when she was 10.

“I remember learning to skate by holding the railing at St. Michael’s Church [in Manhattan] and skipping rope,” she said.

She’s similarly sharp with details on the following 10 decades. She can recall the belt-tightening during the Great Depression and her brothers serving in World War II.

Gilsenan never married (she claims that she “didn’t meet the right guy”) and remained a lifelong “working woman” well into her 80s as a legal secretary.  Her oldest sister lived to be 102, another died at 98, and her mother lived until she was 99.

Her age-defying genes may have been aided by a few habits. She has a soft spot for cream sherry and has swallowed a pharmacy’s worth of vitamins A and D over the course of her life. She also kept her mind sharp reading murder mysteries by authors Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark.

Now living in a convent on Staten Island, Gilsenan was recently asked about her longevity. She replied, “I can’t say I regret it, but I wouldn’t want to do this again.”

NY Post

(originally published: 02/09/10)

UPDATE: Jane Gilsenan died on March 8, 2010. Rest in Peace, Jane; you’ve earned it.

3 comments on “Beyond A Century Of NY Minutes

  1. […] Beyond A Century Of NY Minutes ( Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  2. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as clean as when I arrived. I’ll be back!

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