[April 1987] The Amazing James Costello
While staying with friends Paddy and Bridie Egan in Ardmore, Penna, I visited The Saunders Home for the Aged. Brothers Paddy and John, former presidents of the Galway Society of Phila, had asked me to visit a Galwayman living there.
An unusual aspect of this visit was that I met a 106 year old Menbugh, Co. Galway man who was born March 19th, 1881 who emigrated to the US at age 16 from Cobh, Cork, and who got a job driving a mule team from New Jersey to Philadelphia. He eventually became a docker and was a founder member of the first Longshoremens Union of America.
The Galway Society gave him a party on March 19th to celebrate his 106th birthday.The preliminary arrangements for this memorable party were made by Director Manager Declan Forde (Cork) of the Saunders Home, and at the party were Senator Edward Kennedy, John Heinz, Chairman of Commission on Aging — US Congressman Claude Pepper; Governor Robert Casey (Penna); Dr. Linda M. Rhoades, Chairwoman of the Dept. of Aging; Philadelphia’s Mayor Wilson Goode; President of the Galway Society of Phila. Tom Brennan, and members of the Society.
The 106 year old James Costello is the oldest Irish-American in the USA and probably the oldest living Irishman. He is strong, over 6 feet with huge powerful hands and a fine voice. Although in a wheelchair and slightly deaf, his physique is enormous and is aware of the friends around him.
The Open House party for James attracted 6 other residents of the Saunders Home who were themselves over the 100 mark. He has been at the Saunders House for 18 years and he told me that he has lived under 21 Presidents of the USA starting with the ill-fated James Abram Garfield.
His wife Mary Jane, a Mayo lady, died 30 years ago. He likes a little Irish whiskey and remarked that if he had a chance he “would go back to Ireland in a minute”. His handshake is as powerful as that of a 21 year old man and his love for the traditional Irish music played during his party brought tears to his eyes.
Mr. Costello was presented with many gifts of flowers and shamrocks and all joined in singing “Happy Birthday” to this grand centurian plus 6. I am grateful and privileged to have been present at this birthday party for a Galwayman who could only find time to return to Ireland once in his many years in the USA.
Before leaving James Costello at Saunders House he smiled and waved at me with his two hands. “Give my love to the people of Galway” he said. Its sad to think that this wonderful man has no family.
U.S. Social Security Death Index for James Costello
First Name: James
Last Name: Costello
Birth Date: 19 March 1881
Social Security Number: 162-03-5970
Place of Issuance: Pennsylvania
Last Residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Zip Code of Last Residence: 19151
Death Date: 10 December 1988
Estimated Age at Death: 107