Police from Nassau County and Long Beach along with members of the Long Beach Fire Department, hosted a birthday parade Tuesday for Long Beach resident Faustina Peri, who turned 105 on Monday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Before the coronavirus shut down social gatherings, Faustina Peri would have marked her 105th birthday with her large extended family and a feast of pasta and cake at her Long Beach home. 

But this year, fears of COVID-19 made that impossible.

On Tuesday afternoon, Peri looked out from inside her house through an open window at what could only be described as a birthday acknowledgement worthy of her 105 years on Earth: A 100 vehicle-long caravan — including cars carrying some of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as complete strangers — festooned with balloons and "happy birthday" signs. 

Faustina Peri, who turned 105 on Monday, looks out from a...

Faustina Peri, who turned 105 on Monday, looks out from a window Tuesday at her Long Beach home as her grandson, Nassau Police Chief Ron Walsh, and grandaughter, Stephanie Marra, a Long Beach Police Department detective, watch a community parade to honor Peri's birthday.   Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Beach Fire Department trucks, police cars from both Nassau County and Long Beach, as well as sheriff's deputies, also joined in with lights flashing and sirens blaring, to celebrate the birthday of a woman born when Woodrow Wilson was president. 

"It was really an unbelievable outpouring from everybody to come out and acknowledge someone who's been alive for a century and half a decade," said one of her dozen grandchildren, Nassau Police Chief Ron Walsh, who helped organize the parade. Walsh stood in Peri's driveway with his parents and other relatives Tuesday.

"She's really a maverick and the matriarch of the family," he said, "and we're just so happy she made it to 105, and we're looking forward to 106."

Peri, a mother to four children, a dozen grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, gave a thumbs-up sign and smiled at the spectacle. 

She didn't do interviews Tuesday, but her family said she was ecstatic. 

Peri was born on April 13, 1915 in Ricci, Italy — making her about three years old when the 1918 pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, struck, infecting some 500 million people worldwide. 

"This isn't her first pandemic," said Stephanie Marra, a Long Beach police detective and Peri's granddaughter. "It's pretty amazing." 

Peri moved to the United States with her family in 1927, settling in Richmond Hill, Queens. She married the late John Peri in 1936 and was a homemaker, raising four children, while her husband had his own company painting and remodeling houses. The family moved to Long Beach in the 1980s. 

Walsh said his grandmother "still has all her faculties" and is healthy. Her much younger sister, Anna Santopolo, who turns 84 on Wednesday, lives with Peri and helps care for her. Peri likes watching CNN and News 12, Walsh said, and is still a sharp Scrabble player. 

Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney said he heard about Peri's marquee year from Walsh, and helped organize the parade.

"Turning 105 years old is quite a feat," Tangney said. "Everyone was wearing masks and gloves and practicing social distancing. It was a nice, feel-good moment for the city." 

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy presented Peri with a citation — from a distance — to mark her big day. 

"I expect to see her in another five years," said Kennedy, who had also presented Peri with a citation when she turned 100. "I'll be there with my citation for 110." 

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