The Recorder: Centenarian gets a special birthday surprise

April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - Updated: 10:15 AM


State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk delivered a special 100th birthday card to Elizabeth "Betty" Sardonia at her Amsterdam home Monday afternoon.

Tkaczyk introduced legislation last week at the Capitol in Albany recognizing Sardonia's Feb. 28 birthday.

"This distinguished woman has experienced the incredible joys and sorrows characteristic of and reserved for those with the stamina and courage to savor a full life," Tkaczyk read to Sardonia at her South Side home.

A surprised Sardonia was speechless at first, unusual for her as a self-proclaimed "chatter-box."

"This is beautiful," she managed to say. "You have to be some sort of person to get this. You have to be old."

Tkaczyk said she loves to recognize birthdays, and thinks the elderly are a very important part of society.

"Not too many get to be 100," the senator said. "When you get to be 100, that's something very special."

People all over the world -- as far away as Ireland and as close as down the road -- must think it's important to recognize centenarians, too, because this year, Sardonia received 130 birthday cards.

"A lot of them were from people I didn't even know," she said.

Standing at 4-foot 5-inches tall today, her height never made it past 5 feet. She has arthritis in her hands and her back and she's been color blind the past four years, but she said nothing can stop her.

The most important thing is keeping her mind sharp by sewing, she said. She walks around her home to exercise and keeps busy by watching an hour of "Days of Our Lives" each day and calling her friends to catch up.

Tkaczyk, who keeps sheep on her farm in Duanesburg, said she was especially impressed that Sardonia has continued sewing and knitting.

Sardonia worked in the Chalmers Knitting Mill for 53 years, where she taught other employees how to sew patterns and run the machines. She spent more than half of her life in the mill and retired at age 63.

"It's just to keep my hands going," Sardonia said. "And with that, my mind."

Tkaczyk presented Sardonia with three balls of yarn -- red, white and blue -- made from local sheep's wool. Tkaczyk dyed the yarn herself.

"I was just telling Sophie I needed more yarn," Sardonia said. "Isn't this fantastic?"

Sophie Sardonia, 86, is "Aunt Betty's" sister, chauffeur and caretaker. Though Elizabeth Sardonia lives in the same home she's occupied since she move to Amsterdam at age 7, she still needs help now and then.

She was never married and never had children -- that, combined with an occasional glass of scotch -- is what she attributes to her longevity.

"It's just great to see you in such great health and sprit," Tkaczyk said.

The resolution further states that because the "beloved woman has enriched the lives of those around her through her joyous and sincere love for others and through the quiescent charm and wisdom which comes only from a fullness of years," the legislative body publicly recognizes Sardonia's birthday.

"Maybe I'll make it to 110. So, I hope you make it to at least 105," Sardonia said, hugging the senator.