By DANIEL OFFNER
Kenneth Neilson, a beloved resident at the Rockville Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rockville Centre, was joined by staff members and loved ones in celebration of his 107th birthday.
“Kenneth is an extraordinary gentleman,” Susan Welge, the administrator at Rockville Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said in a release. “He is a light to so many and we are proud to care for him each day.”
Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 16, 1917, Neilson had an active interest in the arts and education. He attended and graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s and went on to receive his master’s degree from New York University.
In 1935, he married his wife, Kathleen, and together they had two sons, Stephen and Lawrence, both of whom are also teachers and artists, following in their father’s footsteps.
Neilson taught English and Social Studies to many students in both elementary and middle school, and enjoyed working with the afterschool program at the library.
He is also a United States Air Force veteran, who served during World War II, and a true leader in his community. As a teacher, he oversaw efforts to rename P.S. 134 in Hollis, Queens to The Langston Hughes School. He also organized the 205th Street and Vicinity Block Association, which played an instrumental role in transforming abandoned city space into a garden.
Neilson wrote several books over the course of his lifetime, including, “The World of Walt Whitman Music” in 1963, “The Littlest Giant,” in 1979, and “The World of Langston Hughes Music” in 1982.
In 2021, the Queens Public Library recognized Neilson for his 104th birthday, as well as his many years of dedicated service to the library and his lifelong passion of literature and the arts.
Dennis Walcott, president and chief executive officer of the Queens Public Library, even paid him a special visit at his home as a way to show his appreciation for Neilson’s commitment toward fostering a love of reading, writing and learning in the community.
He is currently the library’s oldest living cardholder.
While in the care of the Rockville Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Neilson continues to enjoy his time reading and writing, visiting one-on-one with members of the staff, and indulging in his favorite dessert — strawberry shortcake.
His family and loved ones joined staff members on Jan. 16 to wish Neilson a very special happy birthday. When asked, what is his secret to a long happy life, Neilson exclaimed, “to love one another! I love people!”
During the celebration, he was honored with a citation from United States Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, who provided him with a flag that was flown over the Capitol building in his honor.