"One of the things that was unique to her was that at 88, she still gets out every week," Cary said.
Cary said that by staying active, Van Bergen has become a role model to many seniors throughout the community, especially those involved in the Colonie Senior Club.
"I worked for over 20 years altering bridal gowns," said Van Bergen, who said that over the years, she has taught other seniors in the Colonie Senior Club how to knit and crochet scarves, booties and quilts. She added that in her free time, she continues to knit and crochet Christmas gifts for her relatives.
Van Bergen's daughter, Mary Bednarczyk, of Colonie, said that in addition to teaching her peers, her mother has worked with her friends in the club to donate quilt squares to the Warm Up America Foundation, an organization of volunteers who help make blankets, clothing and accessories to help those in need stay warm.
Van Bergen said she first got involved in the Colonie Senior Club after her late husband, Adrian, became the president. Van Bergen took rank as an informal teacher in the club, helping others to learn her craft talents.
According to Cary, Van Bergen still attends club meetings and events on a weekly basis.
Bednarczyk said her mother also enjoys playing card games, "easy little games," Van Bergen called them, with her friends when she goes to the club.
When asked when she had found out that her mother was being honored as an extraordinary senior, Bednarczyk, on Friday morning, answered, "About ten minutes ago," indicating the town had planned to surprise Van Bergen with her title.
But when Cary called Van Bergen to tell her to get ready and that she was being honored, cold symptoms got between Van Bergen and her special ceremony.
"I wasn't feeling well, and when I talked to [Cary], she said I shouldn't go sounding like this and that we will have it another time," said Van Bergen.
And so Van Bergen stayed home Friday morning with Brandy, proving to all seniors in the town, as well as other residents, that even an ordinary person, who on some days feels under the weather, can prove to be extraordinary.""