Column: At Touch of Venice, celebrating a 105th birthday


The waitress approached the table with a round of iced teas and one Manhattan cocktail, a mix of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. She placed the cocktail in front of the guest of honor, the birthday girl.

“Things are looking up,” said her son, Richard Tynebor.

For the last decade, Theodora (Teddy) Tolle Tynebor’s birthday tradition has been lunch at her favorite North Fork restaurant: Touch of Venice in Cutchogue. Friday afternoon, on the eve of her birthday, Ms. Tolle Tynebor was joined by her son and his wife, Carole, and godson Bob Tolle and his wife, Elaine.

This, though, was no ordinary birthday celebration. Ms. Tolle Tynebor was set to turn 105.

Born March 12, 1911, during the William Howard Taft administration, Ms. Tolle Tynbeor was alive when the Titanic sank, when the first crossword puzzle ran in a newspaper and for all of World War I. Raised in Brooklyn, she would often summer on Long Island in Amityville, taking the ferry to Fire Island to enjoy the ocean beaches. Her son and his wife would eventually live in Peconic, giving Ms. Tolle Tynbeor an introduction to the North Fork.

She was married 67 years to her husband, Albert, who died in 2005, and their family now includes two children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, with one more on the way.

“It’s something because I’m only 41 and he’s only 51,” Mr. Tynebor joked, pointing to Bob.

At Touch of Venice, Ms. Tolle Tynbeor enjoys everything on the menu, her son said, especially the lasagna.

“There’s no restrictions,” he said. “Sometimes people have restrictions as they get a little bit older, but she’s ageless. That’s what she says.”

She laughs a lot, her son said, a key to her longevity. That’s apparent when she makes a funny face at a photographer and then smiles wide.

She has trouble hearing and, on this day, speaks very little, but her family says her great sense of humor made her a wonderful storyteller.

“They’re going to have a parade for you tomorrow,” Bob Tolle joked.

Ms. Tolle Tynbeor attended Marymount College, where she was the captain of the field hockey team and played saxophone in the orchestra. She went on to teach in New York City schools, playing piano at school assemblies and becoming an assistant principal.

During World War II, she worked in White Plains at a factory that built airplanes, where the women were often known as “Rosies.” The term “Rosie the Riveter” came from a song about a woman working on an assembly line and became emblematic of American women in that era.

In later years, she and he husband traveled the U.S., taking in everything the county had to offer.
Elaine Tolle recalled one time at Touch of Venice when the waitress spoke German, their family language.

“She was talking to Aunt Teddy, and Aunt Teddy said, ‘This is all very nice, but can I see a menu? I’m hungry.’ ”

Now, the question she’s inevitably asked is about the key to living a long life.

“It’s laughing a lot, positive personality and having strong faith,” her son said.

Not to mention an occasional Manhattan.

The author is the managing editor of The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at 631-354-8049 or [email protected].