Centenarian Rita Giordano of Williamsville reflects on her long life
By Jane Schmitt
Something special happened to Rita Giordano over the summer: She became a centenarian.
That’s right — she turned 100 years old on July 9 and joined a rare group of people who have achieved exceptional longevity.
How rare? Less than 1% of the U.S. population, according to discovertheodds.com.
“Thanks to a number of factors, including advances in our understanding of health, wellness and longevity, people are living longer than ever. Nonetheless, living to the age of 100 remains a remarkable and somewhat rare feat,” the website said.
Giordano’s family and friends celebrated the occasion in style, with not one but three parties, including some fun at the independent senior living community where she resides in Williamsville. She was treated to a ride in a fire truck and pulled the siren while cruising the neighborhood as part of the festivities.
For the other parties, held at two area restaurants, relatives came from all over the country to honor a matriarch who they say is beautiful inside and out, with a warm, loving nature and a positive attitude that carried her far in life and inspires those around her.
“She had a marathon birthday,” laughed her youngest daughter, Valerie White.
And although Giordano laments that her days of dancing the jitterbug with her late husband are behind her — “Oh, I just loved it!” — she still enjoys a full life with her three children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandkids.
“I have had a really good life; that’s all I can say. I’m very healthy. I thank God for that every day,” she said.
Some hearing loss and a bum knee are irritations, Giordano said, but not really anything to complain about. She does some chair exercises with a group in her building and still walks when and where she can, relying on a wheelchair for longer distances.
“She worked at Western Electric for years on the assembly line soldering wires,” her daughter said. “She also has survived five bouts of cancer, so she’s a tough cookie.”
One of three children and born in 1923 to Rose and Michael Guagenti, Giordano graduated from Buffalo Public School 76 and Hutchinson Central Technical High School. She married Anthony “Tippy” Giordano in Holy Cross Church on the Lower West Side and they raised three children: a son, Ross, and two daughters, Shirley and Valerie.
Tippy, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service, “was fun and always joking” and wrote her countless poems over the years to express his love, Giordano said. “He was a wonderful husband.”
They were married 64 years when he died in 2005.
Among her many happy memories are these: Sunday family dinners when her mother would routinely cook for 20 people who crowded into the house; boarding the SS Canadiana to cross the river to Crystal Beach Ballroom; and traveling with Tippy to Greece and Italy, where he bought her a gold bracelet that she treasures to this day.
“We went on 13 cruises, too,” Giordano recalled. “We had so many great times.”
Asked to reflect on her best decade, she said with a smile, “I think they all were damn good.”
These days, she enjoys watching TV shows such as “Family Feud” and “Jeopardy,” which she said “keeps my mind open.” Another favorite activity: catching up on the daily news.
Giordano attributes her longevity not to winning the genetic lottery but, rather, to a commitment to living well, loving deeply and maintaining strong connections through thick and thin. Indeed, family and friends are the support system that never fails, she said.
“I’m 100 years old,” she said. “I had wonderful parents and in-laws. I had a husband who was so good to me. We were happy with our children. I can’t complain about anything. Life is good.”