Two Centenarians

November 20, 2010 | Filed under: From the Archive, Houses, left

From the Archives, January, 2010                         Lynne Crowley, Archivist

Joe Vandernoot at his front door at 27 Walnut Ave.

Joe Vandernoot at his front door at 27 Walnut Ave.

A few months ago I got an email from longtime Larchmont resident Frank Cox. He said that he and his wife Mary wanted to surprise her father, Joseph Vandernoot, for Christmas with a Century Homes Club plaque for his over 100 year old house at 27 Walnut Avenue.  Inspired we were to be the elves to their collective Santa Claus, we delved into our files to research the background of the house.

Well, long story – more than 100 years! – short, as it were, we determined that a Capt. Van Ness had had the house built in 1896, I believe as a rental property primarily – but never mind that for a moment.  Let’s talk about the real centenarian –not the house, but the current (and, for the past 66 years) owner, Joseph F.Vandernoot.

Bricks and mortar, shingle and nails – they just sit there and look pretty. This 101 year old  flesh and blood man-about-town (literally and figuratively!) is our real story here, well worth at least a quick review in these pages. Searching the archives, I’ve culled the following facts from recent coverage in local publications such as the Larchmont Gazette, Reflections, St. Augustine’s newsletter and A Catholic Life newspaper

Born in the Bronx, Joe left school early and went to work to help support his family. Working his way up the ladder, step by step, he became a bond trader in Manhattan, and later a vice president with the company where he worked for 45 years. He and his wife of 74 years, Alice, who died in 2006, moved to Larchmont to the aforementioned 27 Walnut Avenue, with their growing family in 1943..

Yada, yada, yada…. (They went on to have a total of 7 kids, 22 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren…..) as reported in the Larchmont Gazette, “By 1967 he was chair of the Larchmont Republican Committee and by 1969 he was serving on the Mamaroneck Town Council – appointed first to fill a vacancy and then elected in 1970 and 1974. In 1976, he was elected Supervisor… and then was re-elected in 1978 and stepped down at the end of 1979.”  Whew!

During his tenure on the Town Board, what were some of the issues at hand?  Let’s see… flood control, expanding the playing fields, developing ideas to keep kids away from drugs, ideas for sharing services between the Town of Mamaroneck  and the Village of Larchmont…. Gee, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, huh? Or, what goes around, comes around.

But Joe Vandernoot, not content to rest on a bed of laurel, continued to assume major leadership roles in the community – in the Manor Park Society, Friends of the Reservoir and the Westchester Association of Retired Citizens.

As I said, these are some of the facts culled from the archive.  I should note that he’s also described in these sources as “a decent, honest man who tried to help a lot of people”; “known for his friendliness and good cheer”; “known for his sense of humor” ; “a man of honor, humility and integrity” and “always a gentleman.”  Perhaps many of you, dear Readers, can attest to these assertions.

Last, but in no way least, as a daily communicant, Joe has been an active participant at St. Augustine’s Church, serving as frequent server and lector.  In the parish he was a trustee, president of the men’s club and parish council, and a founding member of the local Knights of Columbus.

My friend Lu Doyle, a co-congregant with Joe at St. Augustine’s and an admirer, described him to me as The Oldest Living Altar Server in the World. On consulting Guiness (the book of world records, not the beer) I’ve found nothing to contradict that claim, and so I record it faithfully in the archives of the Larchmont Historical Society under “Vandernoot, J” with a cross reference to “27 Walnut Avenue”.