PALENVILLE — Josie Edwards was 13 years old when she asked her mother if she and her friend could smoke. Her mother responded by cutting a cigar in half and handing the girls some matches.
“One puff and that was it for me,” Edwards said with a laugh.
Her smoke- and alcohol-free lifestyle may be one factor in her longevity. Edwards was born Sept. 9, 1918, and turned 100 years old Sunday.
“I was worried they put something in the punch,” Edwards said Sunday afternoon at her 100th birthday party at the Palenville Fire Department.
The Palenville community was invited to the party from 1-3 p.m. to celebrate the longtime community member.
Edwards rolled up to the party in her neighbor, John DePuy’s, 1923 Model-T — a car that’s five years younger than she. The centenarian was greeted to a celebration of live music, cake, a photo collage and a guest book.
Between 85 and 100 of Edwards’ friends and family members attended the party to celebrate and came from all over the country including Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Hampshire.
With a century of living under her belt, Edwards has been and remains active in the community, said Gary Dodd, Edwards’ nephew.
Over the years, Edwards served as a trustee and treasurer at the Methodist church, president and treasurer of the ladies auxiliary at the firehouse and was one of the original founders of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society.
“She was the person you’d call if you found a stray,” Dodd said. “She would adopt it, find it a home or bring it to the humane society.”
At the party, Edwards was set to receive awards from the town and also from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The centenarian remains active and continues to drive herself to places in Catskill, Saugerties and Kingston.
“She drives more like a 17-year-old than a hundred-year-old,” Dodd said with a laugh. “She’s always on the go.”
Edwards also continues to be self-sufficient, DePuy said.
“She lives alone, drives her garbage to the dump, drives to all her appointments... it’s really amazing,” her neighbor added. “She even bought a new car a couple years ago.
“I’ll pass her driving somewhere and she’ll recognize my truck and wave.”
Edwards’ family history in the area dates back to 1746, said Vivian White Sharkey, who helped organize Sunday’s party.
Edwards was born in her grandparents’ house in Kiskatom. Growing up, Edwards lived with her parents, George and Bessie Dodd, and her younger siblings, Frederick, Joan, William Euberto and Dorris.
She moved to her current home — formerly the Myrtle Villa boarding house in Palenville — in 1925 when she was 6-and-a-half years old. She has lived at the residence for the past 94 years, said Donna Patterson, Edward’s niece.
Edwards and her 99-year-old brother, Frederick, the eldest siblings, have outlived the rest of their family. At Sunday’s party, Edwards sat with her brother and cousin, Mary Lou Gregg.
“I was an only child, so I loved going over to play with Aunt Bessie’s kids,” Gregg said.
Edwards began working as a telephone operator in a nearby office when she was 16.
“She stayed there for approximately eight years,” Dodd said.
Edwards lived at her Palenville home with her husband, Lenard Edwards, who died in 1999, and her daughter Diana, who passed away a year-and-a-half ago, Patterson said. After Diana was born, Josie started working as a clerk at the Palenville post office on Route 23A.
“She also worked in Hunter, Tannersville and Phoenicia,” Dodd said.
Additionally, Edwards served as a bookkeeper and secretary for her husband’s garage.
“She worked there [at the post office] until her husband became ill,” Dodd recalled.
Edwards continues to enjoy spending time with her friends and family, and her cats, she said.
“I love to hike and walk and worry,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t know how I got here... I’ve been lucky.”
For Edwards’ birthday gifts, several people donated to the Columbia-Greene Humane Society, which she was very pleased about.
Edwards was celebrated at Thursday’s Ambrosia Diner in Catskill with 25 family members present.
“I hate having my picture taken, but I guess you only turn 100 once,” she said.