Growing up, Ida Zipkis’ parents never threw her a birthday party.
One year, her parents, who were poor immigrants from Poland, tied a bow around a towel to look like a doll and gave it to her as a birthday gift.
That changed after she had children, and celebrations have remained important ever since. On Wednesday, the tradition continued as Zipkis celebrated her 104th birthday at The Bristal Assisted Living at Westbury.
“Today, everybody is coming and wishing mom happy birthday,” said her daughter Roberta Katzeff, 67, of Merrick. “It’s lovely.”
Minutes into the party, she blew out the candles on her birthday cake after a crowd of her fellow neighbors sang “Happy Birthday.”
Katzeff said her mother has lived as long as she has because she has always been active. She walked two miles a day until she was 95 years old.
“Her secret to keep kicking is that she doesn’t give up,” Katzeff said. “She was never a person to cry. She is very stoic. She never said, ‘Poor me.’ That’s just the way she is.”
Zipkis, leaning on her daughter’s shoulder, credits her longevity to her faith and healthy lifestyle.
“There’s no secret, it’s just up to God,” she said. “I had nothing special. My parents were very, very poor. But I did used to walk 3 miles every day to bring lunch to my father. I’m a walker.”
Zipkis was born in Brooklyn in 1908 and dropped out of high school at age 16 to work as a bookkeeper to help support her parents and four siblings, who are all now deceased.
The 1939 World’s Fair was Zipkis and her husband William’s first date. A year later, they married.
In 1953, the couple moved with their two daughters, Linda and Roberta, to Carle Place. Her husband opened an Army-Navy store in Mineola and moved his family into the apartment above the store.
Zipkis also mentioned a blizzard that hit Long Island in 1959 that she would never forget.
With her husband vacationing in Florida, Zipkis closed up the store and hitched a ride home on a garbage truck, digging her way through 3 feet of snow to reach her front door.
In 1967, William and Ida sold the store and retired. The couple moved to Tamarac, Fla. in 1974.
Her daughter, Roberta Katzeff, said her mother was able to live on her own until she was 101, but later convinced her to move back to Long Island so the family could take care of her.
William died in 1991 at age 81.
Nowadays, she receives visits from her daughters, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Nicholas Materdomini, executive director of The Bristal Assisted Living at Westbury, said he was happy to celebrate the birthday of such a vibrant person and five-month resident.
“We have a birthday celebration every month, but special birthdays from 100 and up are always done special with a corsage and cake,” he said. “Every time I pass her, I give her a big kiss and she gives me a smile right back. We’re happy to have her.”
Katzeff said her mother loves it where she lives now because she gets to stay active.
“She loves to play volleyball, dominos and she’ll beat you at Gin,” she said. “She walks around with her walker and stops by to say hello to everybody.”