Clean living pays off with 103 years
written by Bob Shryock
Mary Ferrante may not be the oldest resident of Gloucester County, but she may be the oldest who still cleans the house, cooks, washes and irons her clothes, maintains two residences, and has no major health problems.
Widowed for 61 years and the mother of four children who are in their 80's, Mary will celebrate her 103rd birthday on Thursday (Dec 8).
"We have nothing special planned," says Franklin Township resident Pauline Villa, a granddaughter with whom Mary lives with five days a week. "We'll take her to lunch. She loves grilled cheese sandwiches."
Born near Corleone, Sicily in 1902 and one of six siblings, Mary Taormina immigrated to the Unites States when she was three. All but one sibling lived into their 80s and 90s.
After settling first in New York City, she moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where her father, Francesco, was a projectionist for Warner Brothers. Francesco died of lung disease in the 1940s, but Mary's mother, Josephine, lived until she was 99.
Mary's husband, Frank Ferrante, a contractor, died in a 1944 accident soon after they moved to Pennsauken and she never remarried. All four of their children are living; Angelina Lorren (North Carolina), Josephine Endner (Sicklerville, NJ), Jim Ferrante (Guam), and Frank Ferrante (Florida). She has eight grandchildren, twenty-two (22) great-grandchildren, and twenty-eight (28) great-great grandchildren. Mary's extended family numbers close to 300.
Mary worked in the alterations department of Strawbridge & Clothier in Cherry Hill, NJ until she was 80.
After spending five days a week in her granddaughter's home, Mary lives in Sicklerville on weekends.
"She is in excellent health," says Pauline, while her kitchen was being cleaned by her grandmother. "She's fantastic, she's never had major health problems. I think it's because she has always eaten well, plenty of fruits, vegetables, and bread. And she'll tell you she has not had any alcohol since her brother's 1914 wedding, never smoked, and never cursed. Her whole world has been her family."
Always busy around her homes, Mary is an excellent cook whose specialty, not surprisingly, is making spaghetti sauce and meatballs from scratch.
"She lives a quiet, simplistic life," Pauline says. "She helps make the world a better place."
Click this image to enlarge Mary's descendant tree.
To print out Mary's descendant tree click here.