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Local Resident Nellie Keller Celebrates 103rd Birthday

Nellie Keller turned 103 at the Seabury Nursing home on Aug. 11, a Luau and singing celebration was coordinated in her honor.

Long-time local resident Nellie Keller was born on Aug. 11, 1908. She celebrated her 103rd birthday on Thursday at the Seabury nursing home with close friends and family members.

They all participated in a Luau-themed luncheon, complete with flowers, Hawaiian leis, and Hawaiian food. After lunch, Keller's sons, Chris and Lee, played music for the crowd and everyone had birthday cake.

Keller has a long history and deep family roots in the area. She was born in Ohio but moved to her Yorktown home in 1941 with her husband Clarence Keller, to whom she was married for 73 years. She relocated to the Seabury home last June at age 102. 

"She thought she was too young to be here," said her son Lee Keller, "We feel good about her being here, it's improved her quality of life."

Her sons said it was hard for their mother to leave the house, in which she raised her family of seven children, four of which are still living. Keller has 26 grandchildren, 54 great grandchildren and one great-great grandson.

"She's phenomenal, I hope to live that long," said her great-grandson Ethan Gilbert, 18, who came from Syracuse to share this day with his family.

Ethan's father Jeremy, Keller's grandson, called her a "sharp lady," who remembers everything about family members. 

The woman was an active member in the Yorktown community to the point where it's almost impossible not to recognize one of the names in her family around town; especially with the majority of them growing up near her house. 

An accomplished and busy woman, Keller was a Girl Scout Leader, a pianist at Yorktown's First Presbyterian Church, President of the Yorktown School District PTA, a member of the Peekskill Garden Club and a member of the Daughter's of the American Revolution. 

Her daughters Pat Button and Barbara Wilkens, of , still live in the area. The farm is the location of every Keller family reunion, which takes place every five years, also on Keller's birthday. 

Grandchild Susan Cortesi fondly remembers that Keller, also known as "grandmama" to her many grandchildren, would celebrate her grandchildren's birthdays along with her own all in one day, secretly because she couldn't keep track of all 51 birthdays. 

"We always look forward to grandmama's birthday every year," she said.

Cortesi is responsible for digging up history within the Keller family. Because of her ancestry investigating, the family has discovered that the Keller family dates back 12 generations. Within this time, Cortesi found out that a distant family member was the "first child of European descent born in the New Netherlands colony" in 1625, which is now New York. Another ancestor also reportedly had an important role in the abolition of slavery also in the 17th century. 

Keller's sons, Chris and Lee, who live in Texas and Colorado, respectively, fly in every year for their mother's birthday. They sing and play guitar at every family event---songs that their mother taught them. She would normally sing with them or play the piano at family functions. 

Yorktown councilman Vishnu Patel attended the celebration and presented Keller with a plaque of accomplishment, recognizing her dedication to her town. 

Editor's Note: The article has been updated to refelect the correct number of grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

Susan Wilkens Cortesi August 18, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Grandmama has 26 grandchildren, 54 great grandchildren and 1 great great grandson. Christine Button and I did the genealogy research. Grandmama's birthday parties have historically been held at her home in Yorktown.
Plamena Pesheva August 18, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Thank you for the comment, Susan. The article has been updated to reflect the correct number-- we can't forget to mention all the grandchildren, great grandchildren and the great-great grandson. Thank you!

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