TOMS RIVER – Marie T. Savignano has some thoughts for all of us who hope to live long lives.
Her advice? Don’t abuse your body and eat healthy foods. It seems to have worked for the Spring Oak resident in Toms River. She recently turned 101.
“I don’t make a pig out of myself, but I do like my ice cream,” she said with a smile.
She has few medical problems, considering her age. She was diagnosed with macular degeneration twenty years ago and has some kidney disease. She can’t see out of her right eye at all.
But that hasn’t kept her from one of her favorite pastimes. She loves to read, especially anything written by Danielle Steele. She even purchased a magnifying machine “as big as a T.V.” that allows her to read.
“I paid enough for it,” she said. “But I can read with the machine.”
She also makes sure she “walks a lot” every day.
“I walk all around the building,” she said. “I don’t sit all day. I like to stay out in the open air.”
She loves the outside, especially sitting in the summer sun.
Marie was the star of the show at her birthday party at Spring Oaks, an assisted living facility, last week. Many of her fellow residents came out to help her celebrate, along with her son Joseph and other family members. She even got up and danced a little, and sang some of the songs a disc jockey played at the party and enjoyed a piece of her birthday cake.
Marie was born in the Bronx more than a century ago, on Jan. 7, 1918, to Nicola and Natalie Savignano. She attended P.S. 21 and Evander Childs High School. She had to leave school when she was 14 to go to work in the garment district, to help support her family after her mother died. She also raised her 18-month-old sister with the help of her grandmother, Anna.
Her father made his living by delivering blocks of ice, long before the days of refrigerators and freezers. The family owned two horses and a carriage so he could make the deliveries.
Marie met her husband Joseph, who also worked in the garment district, when she was 20. The two began dating and rode the train into work together every day.
They were married at Our Lady of Grace Church in 1941 and soon had their only child, son Joseph, Jr. who was also raised in the Bronx. Joseph, Sr. eventually went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he stayed until his retirement. He’s been gone for awhile now. Joseph Sr. died at 68.
After she retired from the garment district, Marie went to work for the New York City Board of Education as a teaching assistant, where she stayed for many years.
Marie has two grandchildren, a grandson, Daniel, and a granddaughter, Danielle. Daniel is training to take over his father’s business in North Jersey and her granddaughter is a dermatologist. Her “baby brother” is 96.
“She is very proud of them and enjoys a close relationship with them both,” said Dawn Casanovas, the event coordinator at Spring Oaks.
Marie is also fairly independent. If she doesn’t care for some of the Spring Oaks meals, she will cook her own food.
“I have my own grill,” she told a visitor. “I cook my own hamburgers.”
Savignano knows she won’t live another 101 years. But she hopes to celebrate more birthdays.