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.
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.
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.
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.”
(originally published: 02/09/10)
UPDATE: Jane Gilsenan died on March 8, 2010. Rest in Peace, Jane; you’ve earned it.