Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 05 November 2010 00:00
Like most New York Yankee fans, Philomena (Fannie) LaPolla is despondent over her favorite team’s recent defeat in the American League playoffs. But Ms. LaPolla, a longtime resident of Massapequa, isn’t your average Yankee fan. Fannie has seen them all and in this case, the cliché is literally true. In fact, she has seen them all even before Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees from the Boston Red Sox so that the Red Sox owner could cover a failed Broadway production.
Fannie recently turned 107 years old, which means she has been following the Yankees since the days when Frank “Home Run” Baker was the star player and the team, then called the Highlanders, played their games at Hilltop Park on 165th St. and Broadway in upper Manhattan.
Making it to one’s centennial is a grand enough achievement. But Fannie didn’t stop there. At 107, Massapequa’s oldest living resident remains alert and active and a friend to all at the Brady Park Senior Center, where she has been a popular regular since 1985.
According to Roseann Vainder, director of the senior center, Fannie follows a regular routine of walking, each day, from the living room of her house to the kitchen. She eats carefully and her hearing and speech is clear once you get a little closer to her. “She’s as sharp as a tack,” said an admiring Ms. Vainder.
Fannie loves bingo and in general, socializing with not just her fellow seniors, but most everyone else in her adopted hometown. As with many seniors who live to and beyond their centennial, Fannie remains a religious person. And indeed, her long life has reaped remarkable blessings. Fannie and her late husband, Florian, a barber by trade, had three children, all girls, all of whom also live in the village. That family has expanded into 13 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren for Fannie to enjoy, as many of them live in the area also.
Fannie lives in Massapequa with her daughter, Diane. According to Diane, Fannie can still recite poetry and prayers. Fannie has committed much devotional verse to memory and enjoys reciting them to admiring listeners. As a grandmother, Fannie taught many of her favorite poems to her grandchildren who, in turn, returned the favor by reciting many of those poems to their grandmother on various birthday celebrations.
Good health most definitely runs in the family as Fannie has a sister, Anne, who recently celebrated her 102nd birthday, making her one of the few younger sisters living in her second centennial. And as a Yankee fan, Fannie has lived through the eras of not just Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle, but also those of Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, and Derek Jeter. Longevity has its benefits.
A native of Newport, RI, Fannie and her family moved to Massapequa in 1978. Fannie, as noted, joined the Brady Park Seniors club seven years later, in 1985. Her favorite activity is crocheting, where she enjoys making lap blankets for the senior center.
“Fannie loves people,” Ms. Vainder said. “She is very social and has so many friends. She loves the community of Massapequa Park.”