HOWELL – When you live for 106 years, you get to see a lot of change. Rose Perrotta is the township’s oldest living resident and right now, she is living through a pandemic.
Rose turned 106 on May 12. She has been a Howell resident for three decades. She has lived through 18 U.S. Presidents, the Great Depression, and every war from World War II on.
She is an active member of the Howell Senior Citizens group and even though she just turned 106, she has all her cognitive abilities and able to converse on any and all subjects.
Her daughter Jane Cassidy said, “My Mom is an amazing woman. She was a fabulous cook and loved cooking for her family. No prepackaged goods or fast food for her. All her vegetables were home grown and fresh.”
Cassidy said her mom always made her own sauces and pastas. “We gathered as a family every night for dinner. She is a strong woman and has lived her life with grace and dignity and courage.”
She described her mother as a woman of deep faith who still attends mass at St. Veronica’s on a regular basis.
Rose was widowed in 1983, and while it was a very difficult time for her, she made the last 37 years meaningful and fulfilling. “At 106 years old, she’s still as feisty and opinionated as ever,” her daughter said.
“My Mom (and Dad) were strict but loving parents. Values, traditions, and family were very important to them. Not a lot of money but we never went without anything and were always meticulously and stylishly dressed. Christmas in our home seemed like a fairy tale with loads of presents everywhere. It was always magical,” Cassidy said.
May 10 was Mother’s Day and this year it was observed a lot differently because of the safety precautions that were put in place due to the coronavirus.
“We gathered on the lawn (social distancing intact), and spoke briefly with her,” Cassidy said. “She was thrilled to see us. She misses her family and her grandchildren, although they are all adults now, they are devoted and still very close to her.”
Mayor Theresa Berger spoke about Rose’s life at a recent Township Council meeting held prior to her birthday.
The mayor remarked, “Rose was born on May 12, 1914 in Greenwich Village N.Y. A first generation American, she married a man named Joseph in June 15,1945 and they moved to Staten Island where they raised four children, Robert, Thomas, Jane, and Patricia.”
Berger added, “she is the proud grandmother of seven grandchildren, Jaclyn, Victoria, Melissa, Dana, Christopher, Caitlyn and Brian. She has three great grandchildren, Lyla, Evie and Juliana.”
Noting Rose’s work outside the home the Mayor said, “she was a school aide for Staten Island Elementary for many years and also served as a poll worker for the board of elections. She moved to Howell 30 years ago and was an active member of our senior center.”
Her activity at the senior center has included her participation in “all the variety shows over the past 30 years and has enjoyed ceramic classes. We want to say Happy Birthday to you Rose, 106 years, God bless you and God bless your family,” Mayor Berger said showing Rose’s photograph provided by her daughter. The meeting was aired on Howell TV through the township website.
Rose lives with her daughter Patricia and her interests are cooking, ceramics and playing cards. As the mayor had noted Rose loved performing in all of the Howell Senior Citizen Center’s theatrical performance for almost 30 years.
“She used to love to shop, particularly in the malls, and continued to do so until she turned 101. In her 80s, she went to Disney World for the first time, enjoying Space Mountain and the Back to the Future rides,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy said her mother enjoyed her trips to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as well as Long Beach Island and Wildwood.
“She always looked forward to her yearly vacations to Starlight Manor with the Senior Center,” Cassidy said, adding that her mom “diligently follows all local and nationwide politics and has voted in every single election since becoming eligible to vote.”
Rose said that she has lived through 18 US Presidents, with Ronald Reagan being her favorite. She remembers the Great Depression, where her family struggled financially, but there was always plenty of food on the table and a roof over their head.
Rose continues to live through a drastically changing world since 1914, while many have only read about it in history books.
She said what she has loved most about living in Howell is “the wonderful friends and staff I have met through the Howell Senior Citizens Center.”
Her daughter said she loved being an active member of the Center and all the many activities and traveling they did over the last three decades.
“She feels that the Senior Center allowed her to enjoy her life here in Howell, helped her to make new and lasting friendships, and believes they take very good care of the seniors who reside in Howell, keeping them active and vital,” Cassidy said.
The pandemic has meant that she has been unable to see her three other children and grandchildren on a regular basis. She misses the daily interaction with family and friends.
The plan for her 106th birthday was to have held a big celebration with her family and friends in attendance, but that had to be cancelled for now.