As a member of the Green Acres Senior Center in Valley Stream, Linda Baric, the director of the senior care program, always had to collect lunch dues.
But one woman, Marietta Cappizzi, who was then 100 years old, would give her a little trouble.
“She would ask ‘what if I die and I don’t eat that lunch?’” Baric recalls. “So I told her, ‘if you don’t eat that lunch, I will go to your wake and give your son the $2.’”
The two would spend the next few minutes laughing about it.
That was 11 years ago. And on Sunday, Cappizzi, who lives at Sunrise Senior Living, celebrated her 111th birthday with her 80-year-old son, Peter, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, as well as a great-great-granddaughter, Emma Marietta, named after her.
“Time goes by,” Cappizzi said. “I can’t complain. I had a good life. You got to keep on going. I’ve got everything I want.”
Cappizzi was born in 1901 in a small town in the middle of Sicily. She was the youngest of 18 children, only nine of which survived. Her siblings included one brother and seven sisters. At 19, she moved to New York, where she met her husband, Frank, who was also from Sicily. She came to the country as a seamstress, but ended up working in a candy store that she and her husband owned. The two were married for 73 years.
Cappizzi, her husband and two sons, one of which died, lived in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The couple later moved to Valley Stream, where she lived until she was 105. She then moved to Sunrise Senior Living in Glen Cove.
“She’s a loving person, and very easy to get along with,” said her son, Peter Cappizzi, of Glen Head. “She never got to be too upset about too many things.”
He attributed her easygoingness to her long life.
Many know her as being a happy woman, and her personality definitely sparkled during her 111th birthday party. At one point, she started singing “Parlami d’amore, Mariu.”
Mariu is a short way to say her name and she’s known for singing it at home. When she got up to singing the line, “Your lovely eyes shine brightly,” she held her hands up to her eyes, which were indeed shining brightly.
“She was very talkative, and always keeping herself young,” said Lilly McDougal, the Green Acres Senior Center bus driver, who would pick her up every day.
Her friends from the senior center, who have known Cappizzi for 20 years, came to celebrate her birthday with her, and thought back on the qualities that make her who she is.
And as she ages, Cappizzi still has the same personality.
Baric said she would always coordinate her outfits. She wore white shoes until the summer was over, and then would switch to black shoes. For her birthday party on Sunday, she was wearing her black shoes.
“I like to look nice,” she said, as she put her hands up, with her freshly painted nails and wrist dressed with a yellow and pink rose corsage.
As generations of Cappizzis gathered around her at the senior center, going up to her and talking, hugging or kissing her, she sat in her wheelchair and did the same thing she’s been doing for years: she smiled.