Connie Benemerito keeps celebrating a new milestone

[Following is a heartwarming story of someone who came from what was the old Bangui (when Pagudpud was still a part of the municipality)–one who’s doing well to live to celebrate her 102nd birthday and some more.  The story appeared in the Aug. 22, 2010 Orange County Register.]

By EUGENE W. FIELDS

BUENA PARK — Connie Benemerito said she didn’t have any secrets on how to live past 100, but her actions have long given away the secret of her longevity.

At her 102nd birthday party on Sunday, family and friends credited Benemerito’s longevity to a love of family and a sense of humor that quickly become evident to the 40 or so visitors at the party.

“My secret is don’t worry,” Benemerito said. “If you are hungry with no food, just go to sleep.”

Benemerito was born and raised in the Philippines, where she worked as a pharmacist. She counted a young congressman named Ferdinand Marcos among her acquaintances.

“I knew him personally,” Benemerito said. “But I didn’t know him when he was president.”

Family drew Benemerito to the United States – specifically Buena Park, where she has lived for the past 35 years. While her daughter, Gale Stoddard, was traveling the country working as an entertainer, Benemerito moved to the United States to care for the next generation of her family.

“My grandkids needed me,” Benemerito said. “They didn’t like their baby sitter, so I came.”

Lesliann Stoddard, one of Benemerito’s three grandchildren, said her grandmother became the primary caregiver. Stoddard related a time as a teen when her band – that practiced in Benemerito’s garage – was waiting for the drummer.

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Connie Benemerito

  • Age: 102

  • Residence: Buena Park

  • Received a birthday card from President George W. Bush on her 100th birthday in 2008

  • Received a birthday phone call from former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin last year

  • Has never missed a vote in any election

  • Daughter Gale Stoddard, grandson Greg Stoddard and granddaughter Lesliann Stoddard are professional musicians

  • ______________________________________________

“We heard some banging on the drums and went out and Grandma was sitting on the drum set,” Stoddard said. “She said she should have taken up the drums.”

Stoddard said the roles have changed, as she is now a caregiver for her grandmother. Benemerito still manages to pester her granddaughter.

“When I leave, I tell my grandmother, ‘Don’t die on me,'” Stoddard said. “When I come back to take care of her, she says to me, ‘I’m still here.'”

Benemerito eats five or six meals a day, reads without glasses and according to her daughter, takes less medication than Stoddard.

“When we go to the doctor, I’m the one who has the most prescriptions,” Gale Stoddard said. “The only thing is that she doesn’t hear very well.”

Benemerito had no suggestions on how to live past 100 – or at least none that she wanted to share.

“Go ahead and get here,” she said when asked what one could do to live that long. “I got lucky.”

Contact the writer: 714-900-2049 or efields@ocregister.com

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