If you want to know Gerard Davis’ secret to living for a century, he’s happy to show you.
You just might not be expecting him to jump out of his seat with the energy of a man twenty years his junior to do so.
“I put on hymns and then I dance,” he says, leaping from the couch in his East New York living room during an interview with BK Reader. “I like to get up and I say, ‘Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, for your grace, your love and your strength, God,’ up and down and praising God.”
Davis hops from foot to foot and lifting and lowering his arms while grinning from ear to ear. He doesn’t even seem to break a sweat. It’s a little routine Davis has been doing every morning for much of his life.
This is just one of a handful of tips to a long and happy existence from Davis — affectionately known as Harold by family — who celebrated his 100th birthday Sept. 16 with a party attended by State Senator Roxanne Persaud, who presented him with a New York State Citation.
Davis, born in St Lucia, showed a tendency towards generosity from a young age. He recalled stealing pennies from Ms. Brownie, the woman who raised him after his mother died, to give to the children at school who had nothing to eat even though he would sometimes be whipped for it.
Even nowadays, he lists “feeding the children” as one of his secrets to a long life. “When I have money, I like to give,” he said.
Davis, who played the steel pan in a band and worked in a restaurant, moved to the United States in the 70s after a woman his wife nannied for helped the family get papers.
“My wife had to take care of a little child, and when it came time to go home the child didn’t want to leave her, she started crying. The mother said, ‘Let’s see about getting papers’,” Davis says. He and his wife, who is now 88, went on to have six children of their own.
The couple live in a third-floor walk up near the New Lots Avenue subway station, and Davis still goes up and down the stairs to get to church every Sunday.
He credits God with taking care of him throughout his life, even warning him of upcoming dangers. “It’s good to reach this age because, as far as I’m concerned, I could have gone early in my younger days,” Davis said. “The Lord has kept me here.”
Davis said it was also important to “do things for yourself” in life. One example is that he doesn’t wait for anyone else to fix him food — instead, he’ll happily make it himself. Davis recommends eating a lot of bananas (he likes to make banana punch) and a lot of garlic.
Also, be careful with money, he warned. “Try to get it in the right way. Don’t take anything from nobody, what you have is your own.”
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