Annie-Bananie turns 100

Annie-Bananie and her brother Sylvan, 98, at her 100th birthday party on Labor Day.

The 90 Club is down another member, but this time it’s not because of a funeral. Yesterday my grandma, affectionately known as Annie-Bananie, became the first member of her giant family to turn 100.

100th birthdays are now so common party stores carry themed decor.

Three older siblings died in their 90s, including Minnie, who made it to 99, and Gaius, who was killed in a freak motorcycle accident at age 94. A younger brother, Ed, turned 90 just before he died earlier this year.

Now that Grandma’s graduated into the triple digits, that leaves only four Gerber siblings in the 90 Club: Sylvan, 98; Leona, 96; Floyd, 94; and Alice, 93. Their baby sister Josephine is a mere 86.

The surviving Gerber siblings: Sylvan, Floyd, Alice, Anna, Leona and Josephine.

Genetics clearly plays a role in this family’s longevity, but there are cultural factors at work here, too. All members of the 90 Club, past and present, grew up and spent their entire lives within a highly organized, tight-knit Swiss American church community that emphasizes family, charity, clean living and hard work. Even Ed, who moved to Florida in the 1960s, maintained family ties and connections via a Fort Lauderdale branch of their traditional Anabaptist (Apostolic Christian) church. If you’re a good fit within this community — and not everyone is — then you get a strong support system and low stress levels in the bargain.

Though Grandma is the first of her 15 brothers and sisters to make 100, she’s still got a ways to go to surpass her mother-in-law. My great-grandmother, Minnie Isch, was 103 when she died back in the early 1990s.

Floyd, chatting here with Annie-Bananie, was one of two sets of twins in the family. Leona remembers that when they were little boys, he and Lloyd once refused to wear new shirts because one twin’s had black buttons and the other blue. So their mother tore out one set of buttons and put in new.

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