PORT CHESTER, NY - William Peterson doesn't consider his life to be anything extraordinary, but after spending some time with the lifelong Port Chester resident it's easy to formulate a different opinion.
Peterson was born on December 12, 1911 on 36 Oak Street in the village of Port Chester. Little did he know then all the changes his own two eyes would see.
Peterson is the fourth oldest of nine children, and grew up on the same street he was born through the early 1900s.
"I remember as a teenager having to take a horse and buggy to work," Peterson said laughing, "All the way down to Brewster".
Peterson, who was a carpenter by trade, built his own house on 37 Garibaldi Place almost seventy years ago. He also worked for Lifesaver's, Arnold's Bakers, and eventually the Port Chester Department of Public Works. Peterson retired from the workforce in 1975.
"He's been retired most of my life," Felicia Peterson, William's niece, told me, "But he's always been active, even up until a couple of years ago".
Felicia, who grew up next door to her uncle and his family, remembers Uncle Willie as a dedicated gardener, growing everything from peanuts to collard greens.
"The tomatoes were my speciality," Peterson said smiling, "I always had good tomatoes".
Peterson was still gardening as late as last year until back surgery checked him into Port Chester Nursing and Rehabilitation Center last March. Although the surgery hasn't allowed him to be as active as he once was, it still hasn't taken away his greatest love, music.
"Uncle Willie was always playing music," Felicia said, "There would always be some kind of music coming from his house".
Peterson has played almost everything from the piano, horn, guitar, washboard, and accordion, often teaching himself along the way. William recalls playing alongside his many siblings and other family members stating "the Peterson's are known for music".
"Anything that made noise was in our music," Peterson said slapping his knee. Peterson also readily recalls visiting the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see the likes of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday.
"Ol' Satchmo could play some piano," Peterson recollected, "and she could really sing".
Peterson also recalls heading down to the move house on Main Street in Port Chester to catch "cowboy shows" when he was a youth.
"We'd wrestle up that nickel and head on down there," Peterson recalled, "Not many people probably heard of it, but it was there," Peterson said nodding to himself.
Peterson met and married Mary Selena Robertson in the late 1920s and the two enjoyed a happy marriage until Mary's passing in 1993. William fathered two daughters, one of whom will turn 79 next year. According to Felicia, Peterson has four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and "a host" of great-great-grandchildren.
When Peterson was asked how he feels about turning 100 he simply shrugged and said, "I feel pretty good. To be honest, I don't feel different than I ever have before".
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