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Woman turns 100, shares LI memories

Madeleine Turpan, who turned 100 years old on

Madeleine Turpan, who turned 100 years old on Sept. 25, at The Bristal in Massapequa. (Sept. 16, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

She cried when her father almost went to World War I.

She lost a cherry tree and had no electricity for three days when the Great Hurricane of 1938 swept through Long Island. She watched John F. Kennedy being shot on television. And she listened to Neil Armstrong's moon landing on the radio. Now she is about to become one of Nassau County's centenarians.

Madeleine Turpan, who for many years lived in Hempstead, is turning 100 years old Tuesday, and her memories are a rich history lesson for Long Islanders.

Turpan, who never had children, and her family spent most of the 1920s and 1930s living in a bungalow in Hempstead. The bungalow was one of the first urban residences in Hempstead when the town was mostly farmland and filled with "beautiful maple trees," she said.

"It wasn't heavily built up or anything like that. There was a house here, a house there," Turpan said. "In the street [in] back of us, [people] had their own chickens."

At 100, Turpan not only has an impressively good memory, but she is also very talkative and has a good sense of humor.

One of her earliest memories was crying and screaming with her two younger siblings when her father was getting ready to go to World War I. On the day he was supposed to leave, however, he received a telegram saying the war had just ended.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of centenarians in the country is booming. As of 2010, the estimated number of people over 100 in the United States was 71,991. The census projects that number will grow to 601,000 by 2050.Turpan, who takes two pills a day, one for high blood pressure and one for her heart, said she has no secrets to longevity. She wakes up at 11 a.m. every day, has a glass of wine with dinner almost every night and played golf until she was almost 90. She also used to walk to the train station and wishes she still could.

Until her eyesight declined several years ago, she said, she read newspapers and played computer games."People used to walk in those days," Turpan said. "When you got off a train, you didn't run to your car and drive home. You would take a bus or you would walk . . . But you get to a point when you can't walk, then you land in here."

Turpan lives at Bristal Assisted Living Community in Massapequa.

After her first husband died in 1977, she enrolled at LaGuardia Community College and graduated with an associate of arts degree. She was 69.

Turpan worked as a dietitian at Top of the Sixes in Manhattan for almost 40 years until she retired in the mid-1970s.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano presented a proclamation to Turpan last Wednesday at a ceremony honoring her and several others. Turpan said she liked Long Island better than anywhere else she has lived. During the beginning of World War II, she lived in Florida with her first husband because of his job, but she did not like it at all because of the lack of seasons.

"They all think they're healthy over there, but I don't think so," she said.After the war, Turpan and her husband bought a house on Beverly Road in Hempstead Village, where they lived for many years.

Her nephew Gene Nifenecker, who is planning her birthday celebrations, said he loves visiting her because of her sense of humor. "To come visit her is a treat," he said.

Turpan will celebrate her birthday at Sergio's Italian Restaurant in Massapequa with relatives from as far away as Chicago and California -- some of whom she has not seen in more than 30 years.

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