By Gina Martinez
The Bayside Senior Center hosted a birthday celebration for three centenarians who credited dancing, youthful spirit and driving for their long lives.
Jean Mastrangelo, Pauline Kossar, and Irving Black, who all have birthdays in July and August, were joined by fellow seniors at the center for a special lunch with music and cake last Friday.
Mastrangelo, who turned 103 on July 20, has led an active life in the city. Born in Queens in her family home just prior to the outbreak of World War I, she is the sixth of eight children. According to Advisory Council President Susan Hall, Mastrangelo takes two city buses to the senior center every Friday where she practices her dance moves. She took up ballroom dancing at 67 and has not quit. Mastrangelo dances at three different venues throughout the week, including one place in Ridgewood and another in Mineola, according to Chu.
Masteangelo said the secret to her long life is being carefree and dancing.
“I always feel young,” she said. “I’ve always been outgoing with no worries. No one is angry with me. I’ve always loved people. Dancing is very important, too. I have a great-granddaughter who is 3 years old named Hannah, who dances, too. We always joke ‘Hannah is like Nana.’ ”
Kossar celebrated her 105th birthday July 21. She owned Kossar’s Bialy Bakery on the Lower East Side, specializing in bagels and other traditional Jewish favorites. Games keep Kossar busy and active, both at the senior center, where she enjoys bingo, and at home, where she plays rummy and canasta. Kossar still occasionally visits the family business she once operated in Manhattan. She credited her family for her long life.
“I’m very happy,” she said. “I have a wonderful life, wonderful family; children, grandchilden and great-grandchildren. I thank God a million times.”
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), state Assemblymen David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) were on hand for the festivities at the center, located at 221-15 Horace Harding Expressway.
When asked by Weprin what the secret to her great bialy was, she said, “I can’t give that secret away.”
Black, who was born in Latvia, turns 103 on Aug. 23. He came to the United States at the age of 7, and later served as a civil engineer for the Navy Department during World War II. Black has been married to his wife, Dorothy, for 76 years. On Fridays, Black drives his wife to the senior center to take her dancing.
He had high praise for the Bayside community, where he has made his home for many years.
“Thanks to the Bayside Senior Center for this wonderful occasion,” he said. “I hope to continue this for another few years. It’s a great community. I’ve lived here 67 years. We wouldn’t want anything better, it’s a great place to live and I’m sure everyone would agree.”
Weprin said one of his favorite parts of the job is attending ceremonies like the birthday party.
“We have people who achieve such a wonderful milestone,” he said. “Each one has a wonderful story to tell, each one of them has over 100 years of history. They’ve gone through so much, they’ve lived through so much. This is a wonderful occasion and senior center. They do so much to serve this area and I’m so happy to be part of this wonderful celebration.”
The Bayside Senior Center is operated by the Catholic Charities Diocese, which serves Queens and Brooklyn.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart