Turning 100 is no doubt a “crowning glory” and a remarkable feat for those fortunate enough to be among that elite group of super seniors.
And with all the advances in medical technology, reaching centenarian status isn’t that uncommon these days. In fact, those in that age group are becoming the fastest growing population in the world.
And with it comes lots of perks: The right to receive extra attention from family members and friends and even local media outlets, recognition from U.S. presidents and politicos — and other fun recognitions.
So, if you’ve been blessed to reach that magical number — revel in all that goes hand in hand with reaching the magnificent milestone.
The latest Staten Islander to have achieved such prestigious status is the former Frances D’Angelo who made her entrance into the world on March 27, 1921 to parents Rosina and Stefano D’Angelo, immigrants from Messina, Sicily.
Frances grew up in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn — on Carroll and and Henry streets, the youngest of seven children — Angelina, Peter, Joseph, Katherine, Antonia, and Flora.
Rumor has it that when she first met her husband, Nicholas LaLima, in her native borough, there was no magic. However, in time love blossomed and the couple fell in love.
The LaLima’s married on Feb. 20, 1973 and three years later settled in Great Kills since Nicholas was owner of the LaLima’s Fish Market on Forest Avenue in West Brighton, until his passing on April 24, 2019.
“Frances always looked her best, and learned to sew from her mother — all her sisters did,” said her niece, Sallie Belluardo of New Springville who’s married to Frances’s nephew Frank. “During her younger years she held a position in the Garment District of Manhattan as a seamstress. She was always inquisitive. And she loved to solved the crossword puzzle everyday.”
A member of the Crafty Ladies at St. Clare’s R.C. Church, Frances created all types of handcrafts with needlepoint being her forte that were donated to shows and fairs at the Great Kills parish.
“Every Christmas she would give all of us an ornament which she made. And every year you will find them displayed on my tree,” Sallie added with pride in her voice. “Always curious and interested in learning, she planted Irises, daffodils, tulips, and she maintained her garden everyday. The daffodils and lilies are coming up now at her house in Great Kills. And she was always fond of playing cards, Pokeno, Michigan Rummy, Rummy, and the family played every holiday. At times we were very loud and we always laughed. She has a big laugh. When we played Pokeno she had her favorite card the “4′s” and if anyone took it, believe me she would retrieve it immediately,” she continued.
A shrewd businesswoman, Frances was extremely knowledgeable when it came to the world of real estate and owned property which she rented and then sold when she relocated to Staten Island in 1976.
“Frances also knew her way around the dance floor as well and she loved to dress to the nines. She was the elegant Audrey Hepburn type,” Sallie added. “Her hair was always done beautifully and her clothes immaculate. She was very classic Hollywood.”
Extremely close to her nieces and nephews, Frances was forever the excellent cook excelling in gourmet dinner for holidays — especially on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
“She did the whole nine yards,” she added, “And would even make special cookies because of my allergies. She was a caring person and a caring wife.”
Sallie says her aunt has really never been sick and has never takes medication of any type.
Frances secret to longevity? Drinking red wine each night with dinner.
A socially distanced festive birthday party that followed COVID-19 guidelines — replete with flowers and candy — was hosted by Elizabeth Ratcliffe, director of Memory Care at The Brielle at Seaview, where Frances, the center of attention, has resided for the last year and a half.
And Frances was the “Woman of the Hour” when she featured on a Smucker’s jar during a segment on the NBC Today Show, for the entire world to see.