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One of world’s oldest, Bernice Madigan dies in W. Mass.

Bernice Madigan, pictured in 2009 on the cusp of her 110th birthday.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

Bernice Madigan told friends and relatives that her secret to longevity was simple: no children, no stress, and a daily spoonful of honey.

Madigan, at 115 one of the oldest people in the world, died last weekend at a nursing home in the Western Massachusetts town of Cheshire, where she had lived for many years.

“She died in her sleep, basically,’’ said Carol Franseconi, a Cheshire selectwoman and friend of Madigan’s family.

Franseconi said that she last saw Madigan, who was born in the 19th century, last summer and found her to be in good spirits.

“She was very alert,’’ Franseconi recalled. “She knew what was going on in the world, too.’’


Franseconi noted that Madigan’s birthday parties would draw more than 100 people to the farm in Cheshire where Madigan lived with her niece and other relatives for many years.

Some highlights from past birthday celebrations included riding a three-wheeled motorcycle into the sunset, speeding down the highway in the back of a police cruiser, and touring the Berkshires in an old train car.

Madigan also indulged in her favorites — honey, Eggos covered in banana slices, and four glazed Pop’ems doughnut holes — every morning, whether it was her birthday or not.

In her final years, she had embraced the competition of becoming the world’s oldest living person, Madigan’s niece Elaine Daniels, 66, said in July.

“She was just ecstatic about reaching 115, because that’s what she always wanted to do,” Daniels said. “That was her goal.”

Born on July 24, 1899, in West Springfield, Madigan was the fifth oldest person in the world as of September 2014, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps a verified record of the world’s oldest people.

Madigan had worked as a federal government secretary in Washington, D.C. She lived in Silver Spring, Md., until 2007, when she returned to Massachusetts and Cheshire.


In July 2014, she suffered a fall and was recovering at Berkshire Medical Center shortly before turning 115. Until then, she could walk the length of her driveway and back, with the aid of a walker.

Incidents such as the fall did not hold Madigan back, Daniels said in July.

“She’s like the Energizer bunny that just keeps going and going and going,” Daniels said. “She has the setbacks and then just keeps going.”

Madigan was married to her husband, Paul, for 50 years before he died in 1976.

Franseconi said several other town residents were centenarians and she expressed the hope that someday they would reach the impressive longevity enjoyed by Madigan.

“I just think that she will be missed by many people in our town,” Franseconi added. “Being our most famous resident, she did bring some notoriety to Cheshire, which was well appreciated.”

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. M.G. Lee can be reached at matt.lee@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @M_G_Lee.