Written by Marilou Giammona, email@example.com Wednesday, 28 August 2013 00:00
Edward John Palkot recently became a member of an elite club: the centenarians. The Garden City resident celebrated his 100th birthday on Aug. 20, joining a limited number of folks worldwide who have walked the earth for a century or more. But if you ask Palkot, being a member of the Garden City Retired Men’s Club holds more weight.
“This would not have been possible if I didn’t have friends, and I am most thankful for the friendship all of you have given me over the years,” he said at a celebration sponsored by the Retired Men’s Club on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at West Hempstead’s Pompei Ristorante. “You’ve made life easier. There were times when things were difficult but we always managed to get a good cribbage hand and take care of that,” he quipped. “All of you deserve a hand of applause. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you’ve done.”
The celebration brought together friends and family from different facets of Palkot’s life. His four children—Ed Palkot, Jr., Barbara Hymans, Patricia Abdellatif and Gregory Palkot--traveled from their own homes of New Jersey, Texas and London to pay tribute to their dad not only on Aug. 21 but to also join him in four days of festivities prior to this soiree. Many friends from St. Anne’s parish, where Palkot still serves as a lector, attended, as did members of the Knights of Columbus Council 2852, of which Palkot currently serves as second vice president, and “the Portugal group”—a group of friends who traveled to Portugal together 10 years ago and kept up their friendship by meeting at one another’s homes every six weeks for the past decade.
Joe Leto, Palkot’s best friend, served as master of ceremonies at the celebration and worked tirelessly over the past couple of months to plan the party. “Ed, if we assembled all the people that you have touched and who love you, we probably would have built a stadium or an amphitheater at least, and I know that we could easily fill half of it with your ex-girlfriends,” Leto joked. “It would be no problem with that!” Palkot’s companion, Alice, took the humor in stride, as she chuckled with the others in the banquet room.
On Monday morning, the senior Palkot kept his routine of nine holes of golf at Eisenhower Park, which he walks every week with his foursome. “Joe [Leto] drives them and Dad putts them,” the younger Palkot joked.
A Fox News senior foreign affairs correspondent based out of London, Gregory Palkot arranged for his father to celebrate his 100th birthday on “America’s Newsroom” on Tuesday, where he was interviewed by anchor Martha MacCallum. “My father was cool as a cucumber.”
So, what is Palkot’s secret to longevity? “I’ve been blessed with good health. I’ve had minor things but nothing too serious. But my family has helped me. I’ve managed to find that the groups I’ve worked with or play with seem to be happy groups,” Palkot said. “And I like to keep active. I walk in golf, I don’t like to ride.” The youngest member in Palkot’s foursome is 88-years-old.
And if there truly is a fountain of youth, could it be the Ohio River? Palkot was born in Pittsburgh. “I grew up inhaling all that smoke from the steel mills in those days, and it is true, we drank the water from the Ohio River, which was quite polluted, I was able to build up so much resistance,” he said jokingly. “Today, Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. In my day, my poor mother had to change the curtains on the windows every two or three weeks because they got so black. If you worked in an office in downtown Pittsburgh and you had to go to a conference or something, you always took an extra shirt because your cuffs would be black by the end of the day. It was a very, very unhealthy place.” Indeed, Palkot contracted the flu during the epidemic in 1918, “but here I am.”
Asked what some of his earliest memories are, Palkot said, “One of my earliest, favorite memories is being George Washington in my third grade play. I had to go to Betsy Ross’s house and she was sewing the first flag. Why it makes an impression me, sitting on the stage as we were putting on this little show, there were five Civil War veterans in uniform. That memory has been ingrained in me.”
As for the changes he’s seen in Garden City since 1939, when he worked as a speech teacher at Garden City High School, “When I first came to Garden City, when we had enough snowfall, they would have a wooden plow pulled by a horse clearing the sidewalks. And those days many furnaces were fueled by coal and Garden City people would go down, do your cellar, pull out the cinders. They gave all that service. … That was a strong impression on me. And then, I was living on the east side of Garden City, and Mitchell Field was still active, and the bombers would come right over. I used to write to my mother, I wasn’t married then, and I would write to my mother in Pittsburgh and say, ‘I think the bombers are trimming the hedges!’”