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They blew 1,324 candles for a historic birthday bash

Esther Vega, 102, celebrates her birthday with family members and residents at Chapin Home for the Aging. Photo by Juan Soto
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They were all alive when World War I broke out, and on Friday they were all together celebrating their birthdays.

None was younger than 100.

They were the 13 residents from the Chapin Home for the Aging at the center of the centennial celebration held at the Jamaica Hills nursing home June 27.

Only one of them was missing: Nettie Rosevelle, 100.

“This morning she said that she was not coming down because she didn’t feel like a party,” Kathleen Ferrara, director of recreation at the nursing home, said.

They are all members of the Chapin Home Century Club, and during Friday’s celebration the birthday kids, family and friends enjoyed an afternoon of music, speeches and cake, lots of cake.

The formal cake presentation was made as the St. Gregory’s Theater Group Chorus and Frank Sanchez at the piano performed “Get Happy,” famously sung by Judy Garland in the 1950 movie “Summer Stock.”

All of the celebrants, they said, are happy at Chapin, but the oldest one, Mildred Gent, confessed that she would “rather be home.”

Gent’s niece, Patty Reimerders, understands her aunt’s desires, but at the nursing home “she is safe and taken care of.”

Gent, a former bookkeeper from Flushing, is 107. She only needs to take one pill a day to control her blood pressure.

“She is very independent,” added Reimerders. “She eats and does a lot of things by herself.”

But at 107, Gent realizes that she cannot be home on her own.

“They treat me very well here,” she said.

Esther Vega, 102, was sitting not far from Mildred Gent at the ground floor hall of the Chapin Home for the Aging, at 165-01 Chapin Parkway in Jamaica.

“I am enjoying every minute of this,” said Vega, who came to New York from Puerto Rico when she was 14. “This is just wonderful.”

And Ivo Cendrecourt was proudly holding a diploma sent from the White House congratulating him on his 100th birthday. He was proud of the document signed by President Barack and Michelle Obama.

Marjorie Barrow, 100; Margaret Maschid, 100; Mary Nuccio, 100; James Kee, 101; Annette Funghini, 102; Albina Rizzo, 102; Georgina Schilizzi, 103; Mattie Woolfolk, 103; and Katie Santangelo, 104, were all there with their families.

And they all hope the centennial club grows. Irwin Feigin will turn 100 in May.

The celebration started with a prayer by George Stack, president of the resident council.

“I am only 78, but this is a wonderful place,” he said.

Elected officials who represent the area did not want to miss the historic celebration.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), showed up at the centennial party.

The three of them told the birthday celebrants that they all played “fundamental” roles in the development of the country and New York City.

And with so many people reaching the century-old mark, Weprin, 58, said, “Please, save room for me here in 42 years.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260-4564.

Updated 3:32 pm, July 2, 2014
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