The Levins reveal secrets to their longevity

by |
08/11/2013 2:20 PM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Arthur Levin (left) and his brother, Jack, say a healthy lifestyle has led them each to a long life, but genetics also played a factor. Jack, who is 104 years old, is one of three Levin siblings to reach 100. Arthur is 98 years old.

If you ask the Levin brothers of Greenport for the secret to longevity, you’ll get a simple response.

Jack Levin, a self-made businessman who is 104 years young, and his brother, Arthur, 98, a retired dentist, attribute their healthy lives primarily to a good diet and staying active.

But Arthur believes another factor has contributed to their long lives: genetics.

You see, they’re not the only Levin siblings to live to 98 years or longer. Their oldest sister, Ann Weisbein, lived to be 104, and the third-oldest sibling, Peggy Keller, died at the age of 101.

Those four Levin siblings have lived a combined 407 years and counting.

“It’s 90 percent good genes,” Arthur said during an interview last week at Jack’s family business, the Soundview Inn and Restaurant in Greenport.

Jack — who opened Jack’s Shack in the summer of 1935 and later expanded the business by opening the Soundview Inn — has another piece of advice.

“Everything in moderation,” he said.

The Levin brothers’ parents, Harry and Martha, immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania in 1906. Arthur said his parents lived in Brooklyn first and decided to move to Greenport after his father read in a Jewish newspaper about a tailor shop for sale in Greenport. Since his mother didn’t want to raise a family in the city, Arthur said his parents happily moved to a house on West Street, which is also where the Levin children were born.

The family ran Levin’s Men’s Shop on Front Street and Arthur later opened his dental practice on the building’s second floor.

Jack and Arthur’s parents died in their 70s. They also had a third son, Irving, a military veteran who died in 1966 from Hodgkin’s disease.

Jack is said to be Greenport’s oldest living resident, a statement that gains credence when one considers that the oldest resident at either Peconic Landing or San Simeon is 102 years old.

A 1927 Greenport High School graduate, Jack is also the school’s oldest living alumnus. He and Arthur were the guests of honor at last summer’s all-class reunion at the Fifth Street park.

“A lot of people recognized me,” Jack said. “I’ve made a lot of good friends in Greenport.”

He said he has many fond memories of his neighborhood, especially of going dancing downtown and carrying Charlie Chaplin’s luggage from the train station to the hotel.

“He was very nice and tipped me 25 cents,” said Jack, who admitted that was a good tip in those days.

Jack’s oldest daughter, Jody, said she believes her father’s strong work ethic contributes to his happiness.

“He was on the cusp of the blossoming of the North Fork,” she said. “He helped to create it. He has lived for himself and his extended family, but also for his community.”

Arthur said he’s also grateful for his older brother’s guidance. One story begins with Jack grabbing him by the hand and taking him to apply for a newspaper delivery job. Arthur said he fell in love with a house on Front Street on his delivery route. One day when he stopped by for a collection at the home, the homeowner invited him in as she went to get his payment.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’d love to live here,’ ” he recalled. When Arthur grew up and was ready to start a family, that same house went up for sale. He said he gives the credit for finding the place where he raised his family and lived for nearly 50 years to Jack.

“My brother has been very good to me,” Arthur said. “I’ve had a very good life and have been very lucky.”

Arthur’s daughter, Diane, an author and educator who lives in Boston, said she’s grateful for her father’s devotion to family and his support in making sure she and her younger sister, Carol, received a college education.

Jack’s daughters Ellen Wiederlight, who runs the hotel, and Rachel Murphy, who runs the restaurant, agree that a strong family bond is important for a long and happy life.

“He had children later in life and we kept him young,” Ms. Wiederlight said.

“Not only are they brothers, they are the best of friends,” Ms. Murphy added.

[email protected]