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A Birthday Salute to Two Nonagenarians

A Birthday Salute to Two Nonagenarians

    When last you heard from me, I was celebrating golden wedding anniversaries; but, suggesting along the way, that such achievements are as common in the present moment as millionaires.  Twice as unusual among personal milestones in this Twenty-first Century is living beyond ninety years of age.  "Threescore years and ten" is the Bible's measure of our stay on earth. We shall have to amend the statement in Scripture that follows, about by strength one might reach eighty.  Now it might better read "if by reason of strength they be four score years [and ten]."

    This month two of my friends and former parishioners, loyal church people throughout their many years, worthy examples of what a Christian should be, celebrate significant birthdays.

    My first salute goes to a fellow who will be celebrating his ninety-fifth birthday.  Ned Mahoney, Anne's beloved husband, Barbara and Carol's Dad, grandfather to Lisa, Jessica, and David, and Great-grandpa to Mikey, owns a long list of personal accomplishments including trumpet soloist with the Goldman Band, conductor of several bands on the island, owner of an instrumental rental business servicing LI schools, avid sailor, world traveler, ice cream connoisseur, and all round great guy.     

    On his 90th birthday the family hired a band to play "Happy Birthday" outside the Mahoney residence on Foster Avenue.  This year the celebration will be more subdued but no less joyful.  A few years ago I addressed the United Methodist Men at a breakfast gathering.  I sought to offer them examples of a truly manly Christianity.  Ned was at the top of my list.  Generous, thoughtful, intelligent, and always there when needed, the kind of soul in whom the mind of Christ is manifest with beauty and strength. 

    Join with me, then, in a hearty "Amen and Hallelujah," with a chorus of "Happy Birthday" to my favorite son of the Soo (as in Sault Ste. Marie MI), ninety-five years young, Ned Mahoney.

    But save some voice for another Grace Church stalwart arriving this month at the tender age of 90.  Margaret ("Peg") Broadie Keller commented recently in Email to me that she never thought she would endure this long.  But she has and has done it with courage and self-deprecating wit that has taken this girl from the Kansas homesteading plains to the sandy soil of Nassau County for a lifelong journey with Bert.  Husband's enthusiasm and get-up-and-go are legendary.  But holding him together and holding him steady was the farm girl college student with whom he shared this mortal life for more than fifty years from home base on Argyle Street in Valley Stream.  Mom to Dick and Kathleen, grandmother and great-grandmother to Dick's offspring, Peg, along with her familial duties, was one of those women without whose selfless service the church would soon wither away.

    By the time I arrived at Grace Church in 1973 Peg had served in just about every capacity in the local church's officiary, except Lay Leader, Bert's province.  She and her friends in the United Methodist Women cooked dinners to raise the money that paid for the church and education buildings. In recent years she quietly took a back seat, offering her exceptional wisdom on matters of our life together in the church only when asked, a restraint admirable for being so rare.  There has always been to my mind something appealingly girlish about Peg, an openness, a directness, a willingness, that made me forget she was my senior by more than a few years.  

    Join with me, then, in a hearty rendition of "Peg O' My Heart," with a chorus of "Happy Birthday" to the woman with the Kansas cadence in her voice, ninety years young, Peg Keller.

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