If Dorothy Sellers suspected why her longtime caretaker, Donna Bellacosa, and her next-door neighbor, Pamela Marbury, were bringing her down her sunlit front steps at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 30, she gave no indication.
“Well, hello,” she said to Mayor Robert Kennedy as he strolled through her front gate, surrounded by camera-bearing journalists, officials of the village police and fire departments, and a group of her closest friends.
“You’re 108,” Kennedy said. “We brought all these people down here to see you.”
“Well, I think most people are working,” Sellers told him, “but it’s nice that you came.”
Kennedy read her a list of fun facts about her birth year, 1913, concluding, “Life expectancy for someone born in 1913 was 50.3 years for a male and 55.3 years for a woman, so you exceeded that by twice!”
A noisy parade of fire trucks and police cars raced by, sirens blaring in a birthday salute, while Sellers watched Kennedy light the candles in the shape of a 1, a 0 and an 8.
“Where are my 108 candles?” she asked, tongue-in-cheek.
“I think you bought them all out of the store when you hit 100,” responded Kennedy, who then led the crowd in a multi-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
“Thank you very much,” Sellers said. “I feel very honored, and I will never forget that you all came to wish me a happy 108th.”
Kennedy handed her a framed document wishing her many happy returns from the Village of Freeport. As she drew the knife through the cake, she answered questions gently posed by the journalists.
“I have no magic formula,” she said. “I don’t know any more about why I’m this old than you do. ... I’m not sick at all. I’m just old, which is why I don’t walk, I shuffle. … I don’t know why I got to 108. I guess they forgot me!”
Asked to tell a few memories of her childhood, Sellers recalled her dog, a Newfoundland named Max, who sat on the running board of the family car as they drove around her hometown of Connellsville, Pa. Her father made their house popular by hanging a long swing from the immense tree in their yard.
“I was a victim of the Great Depression,” she said, not mentioning a fact recorded elsewhere -- that her father died while she was studying English at Ohio Wesleyan University, cutting her college career short. “When I was ready [to find a job], there was nothing to be had in my little town of Connellsville, so I came to New York and I finally got a job.” She stayed with an aunt on Long Island.
“I had a very adventurous life in New York,” she said, having found a job with Seagram’s Distilling Company. “I worked for the head man in one of the branches and so I got a lot of perks … I would say I did not have a bad beginning. Maybe that’s why I lived a long time.”
Sellers moved into her Freeport house in 1959, taking care of her mother, who died at age 94, and then caring for her aunt. After the aunt died, said Sellers, “I never got lonely. I had lots and lots of good friends.” She retired from Seagram’s in 1981 and for about 10 years ran her own craft business, selling Christmas and Easter decorations to the Waldorf Hotel. She belonged to organizations like the Planting Fields and area museums.
Raising her first forkful of cake to Kennedy, Sellers said, “Here’s to the greatest village on Long Island,” evoking cheers and applause.
Someone asked her what would happen for the rest of the day, Sellers replied, “Well, you never know what’s going to happen. Like this, I didn't know this was coming. So I presume somebody will stay and will visit.”
Her good friends surrounded her in the sunlight, taking photos and chatting, before escorting her back inside.