It was the party of a century!
Family, friends, and elected officials celebrated the 100th birthday of lifelong Brooklynite Peter Bencivenga at La Plaina in Gravesend on Dec. 27.
The World War II veteran, retired landscaper, and avid gardener celebrated his own personal turn of the century with more than 60 guests, including Borough President Adams. Relatives say his mind is still as young as his spirit.
“He is really an amazing man,” his daughter-in-law Elise Bencivenga said. “He reads the paper every single day from front to back. He knows everything that is going on in the world. His memory is amazing, just amazing. Every time I have a question, I ask him.”
Peter Bencivenga was born in Gravesend in 1914, and now lives with Elise, his son Steven, and his daughter Rosemary in a house only three blocks away from where his childhood home once stood.
Bencivenga worked in landscaping for more than 20 years, and he only left the borough once, for a very good reason: to fight Nazis.
But even while he was in Europe serving in a mobile Army surgical hospital during World War II, family was supremely important to Bencivenga. When his unit was stationed in Italy, he snuck off with a friend to visit his relatives in Milan for more than a week. Bencivenga’s captain was looking for him all week, but his daughter-in-law said the local legend knew how to dodge the drama.
“His officer said, ‘Pete, where have you been? I’ve calling you on the loudspeaker,’ ” Elise Bencivenga said. “He just said, ‘I didn’t hear you.’ ”
She said the whole family is impressed by her father-in-law’s continued ingenuity, whether it is his quick thinking, as when he moved a washing machine by placing it on top of a skateboard, or his long-term vision, like how he grew a plum tree in the family’s backyard from a tiny pit.
“He is incredible,” she said.
Bencivenga said the party was the perfect way to celebrate the century, and that he is looking forward to the future festivities with his family. In addition to his own two children, he also has four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
“My daughter-in-law and my son and my daughter, every day, they take care of my life,” he said. “I could live a thousand years.”