Love of family and love of God are the keys to a long, happy and healthy life, according to Vincenza Colucci, who celebrated her 108th birthday Sunday with about 40 members of her family.
"All of the company here today is special; all of the flowers and balloons are special. I enjoy everything, but the best is that my family is here to help me," Colucci said. "My daughter, Helen, takes care of me too much."
She has good days, and some bad days, according to her daughter-in-law, Kay Colucci.
Sunday, her birthday, could be considered to have been one of her bad days because her body ached and she did not feel well enough to get out of bed. But she didn't see it that way.
Her bed was moved into the living room, with four generations of her family gathered around, she received Holy Communion from a pastoral associate, her silver-white hair was neatly combed, her tiny earrings sparkled, she talked with guests and she nibbled at her chocolate-and-vanilla birthday cake.
Just the previous day, she was out of bed and walking around the dining room table with the help of her walker. "She walks laps around the table almost every day," a relative explained.
"For a long and happy life, we have to love each other," Colucci said. "I just go on with life every day, and do what God wants me to do. If he wants to take me, that's fine."
"She shows an inner strength to get through life," one of her relatives said. She suffered a broken hip three years ago, went through physical rehabilitation, and then suffered a broken leg when she fell in her yard.
The former Vincenza Balassoni was born Jan. 23, 1903, in Sulmona, Italy, one of 10 children in her family. She married Francesco Colucci on her birthday, Jan. 23, 1926. He died unexpectedly in 1953 while watching a boxing match on television.
She came to the United States through Ellis Island in March 1929 with her two oldest children to join her husband, who had come to this country earlier to work. They settled in Niagara Falls, joining other family members, and she has lived with two daughters, Helen and Ann Colucci, in the city's DeVeaux section since 1977. She also has another daughter, Fulvia Passanese.
She has five children, 12 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren.
Always a stay-at-home mother, she was an excellent cook, tended an ever-growing garden of vegetables and flowers right up until this summer, and sewed as well as a professional seamstress, making all of her children's clothes.
She reads the Catholic Mass daily from her prayer book and enjoys watching game shows on television -- especially Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Colucci reads and writes in English and speaks English most of the time. When talking with people from the "old country" though, she still speaks fluent Italian. She votes by absentee ballot, and can remember voting for every American president from Franklin D. Roosevelt to President Obama.
At the day's end, after the party was over, Colucci relaxed in a peaceful sleep looking forward to another day of loving family and loving God.