WARRENSBURG - A festive celebration of a woman's 100th birthday on St. Patrick's Day featured a house crammed with people from as far away as Ireland.
Mary McKenna Murphy of Cloverleaf Drive has Irish roots, and they were apparent March 17 as she and her daughter Rosemary and husband Bill Maher welcomed 75 or more people into their household for Murphy's birthday fest.
More than a dozen of them, including cousins, great-nephews and nieces and grandchildren, traveled from Ireland to celebrate Murphy's centennial.
Murphy took it all in stride, exchanging greetings with the guests - as she does in her daily routine, sitting on the sun porch which serves as the home's entrance.
Murphy's cheerful attitude, helpful spirit and friendly nature are all reasons why she's lived to be 100, her descendants remarked at the party.
"My mother is happy, pleasant and enjoys living up here in Warrensburg, and she's very grateful," said Kay Weber, who has a vacation home several blocks away.
During the party, Murphy's granddaughters Jeannie Cronin of Warrensburg and her sisters, Susan Hentze and Janet Thomas, recalled growing up decades ago in their family's Brooklyn home with Murphy living with them.
"She's an amazing woman - she was like a second mother to us. She'd help us all with homework, pick up our clothes and fold them, and make our beds when we were too busy to," Cronin said.
"She did my high school project for me at our dining room table while mom was working," Janet Thomas chimed in.
Murphy's son Thomas, 75, of Lord's Valley, Pa. also said his mother Mary was helpful, thoughtful and cheerful.
"She did all my French and Latin homework for three years," he said, noting that her assistance allowed him to concentrate on athletic training. A few years later, Thomas Murphy was a national champion runner, setting world's record for the half -mile.
Reading a congratulatory letter from the president of Ireland, Murphy offered her thoughts.
"To think that I've come from a simple Catholic background to go all this way," she said, reflecting on her experiences.
"I've had a wonderful life, and I have wonderful relations," she added. Murphy has four children, 11 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-granddaughter.
Murphy credited her longevity to a conservative lifestyle.
"I wasn't a party girl," she said. "I did go to a couple of parties over the years, but it was not by choice - they were family obligations," she added with a laugh.
Jeannie Cronin noted that such a conservative lifestyle paid off for her grandmother, who worked for a board of education downstate for 10 years, followed by employment as a school secretary in Brooklyn.
"She's on no medications, and she's in perfect health," Cronin said.
Mary Murphy proved this point when she was presented with her birthday cake.
She blew out all but one the candles, and was greeted by a rendition of "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow," plus repetitions of "Hip, Hip, Hooray!" by the crowd.
Weber said that Murphy's longevity was partially due to all the social activity in the Maher household, including Bill Maher's opera club meetings at their home.
"All their friends come in and socialize with her," Weber said. "My mother has a very good life - she's very blessed, and she knows it."
Jeannie Cronin echoed the point.
"She holds court on the porch - she's a celebrity here."