Irene Bernatzky was headed to Manhattan to celebrate her 89th birthday Tuesday when she died in an escalator accident at her neighborhood Long Island Rail Road station, her son said Wednesday.
Kenneth Bernatzky, 57, who lived with his mother in Lindenhurst, said she was headed to the city by herself to visit her daughter. The train station is about five blocks from the Bernatzkys' two-story, wood-frame home on South Ninth Street.
"She was 88, but she wasn't 88. She was active and spry, and that's the way she wanted to live -- to be independent," Kenneth Bernatzky said. "There isn't anyone who would say a bad word about her," he added, declining further comment.
Irene Bernatzky, whose birthday would have been Thursday, was a familiar sight in the community -- running errands, walking her dog and chatting with people she met along the way, neighbors said.
"She was always walking around," said Eve Stankunis, 49, who lives next door. "You couldn't stop her. She was a really nice, wonderful woman."
Dawn Shipsey, who lives across the street, also remarked on how active Irene Bernatzky was at her age.
"She would always be walking out, on her way somewhere," Shipsey said.
Another neighbor, Eve Hough, 69, said she chatted with Bernatzky Monday morning as the elderly woman was taking out the trash, ready for another outing.
" 'You know me,' " Bernatzky told Hough. " 'I've got to go.' "
With John Valenti