By  on January 4, 2005

NEW YORK — Faith Keane Reichert is a lively, energetic and opinionated woman who is a former copywriter, television host and New York University marketing professor. In her retirement, she has kept up with her many interests, which include the Roundtable of Fashion Executives, a group of fashion people she and some friends founded in 1949 when they felt that the Fashion Group had become too big, so large that it was no longer possible to get to know people.

But Reichert is a bit different from even the most enterprising of retirees. The reason: She was born in 1901. That isn’t a typo.

These days, she has a little trouble getting around and must use a walker. But otherwise, her health is excellent. What makes Reichert even more remarkable is the fact that she comes from a family of four siblings, all of whom are still alive and doing well. She calls her 93-year-old brother her “baby brother.” Her 99-year-old brother still runs his own law firm with his two sons.

Then there are she and her sister, who, she says, are “polar opposites.” Her sister, for example, always has regular mealtimes and knows exactly what she needs to eat to maintain her health. Reichert, who doesn’t like to eat, says she has “no idea” what’s important in a healthy diet. She also smoked for 80 years. In a recent checkup, however, her lungs were completely clear. She says she only stopped smoking because she had to have a hip replacement, and lighting up wasn’t allowed in the hospital.

After her husband, Philip, a prominent cardiologist, died in 1985, Reichert did a great deal of traveling. She has a photograph of herself dancing on one of her trips to Egypt. That evening, she had asked a stooped-looking elderly man sitting nearby how old he was. He said, “Oh, very old,” and finally admitted to being 72. In the photograph, she looks as if she’s in her early 50s, but she was in her late 80s at the time.

If this youthfulness and family background sound unusual, it is — enough so that she and her siblings are being studied by both the Albert Einstein and Harvard medical schools. The doctors think that there may be a genetic reason for the fact that these four siblings (which they believe to be the only group of four in this situation in the U.S.) have enjoyed such long, healthy lives. They are hoping, of course, to find a genetic marker that might one day reap benefits for others.

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