Winnie D’Amelio doesn’t have a magic formula for living more than a century. But she says it starts with being positive and having lots of friends.
On a recent afternoon, Winnie D’Amelio was telling a visitor about the weeklong Bermuda cruise she just took with her four daughters. She enjoyed it, she said, “but I’m going to have to start slowing down.”
That might not sound remarkable, unless you know that a couple weeks ago, D’Amelio celebrated her 104th birthday.
A LONG AND FULL LIFE
1905: Teddy Roosevelt is president the year that D’Amelio is born.
1917: The U.S. enters World War I. By then, D’Amelio’s father’s grocery stores have gone out of business.
1929: The stock market crashes, triggering the Great Depression. D’Amelio marries her husband shortly thereafter.
1941: World War II begins. Before and after, D’Amelio is kept busy raising six children.
1963: D’Amelio retires and is on a four-month freighter voyage around the world when President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
For D’Amelio, slowing down means she’s no longer volunteering at the Duxbury Art Complex Museum or the local thrift shop, as she did at an age well past most people’s life expectancy. But she’s still the “hug lady” at the Bay Path Nursing Center. She’ll be making her usual monthly visit there in October. And she still lives in her own condo.
D’Amelio is among the longest-lived of a select population – the estimated 100,000 Americans who are 100 or older. Teddy Roosevelt was president when she was born, on Sept. 8, 1905. Henry Ford had just developed the Model T. Women wouldn’t get the vote for another 15 years. But for all the history she’s witnessed, D’Amelio is matter-of-fact about her actuarial achievement.
“I’m enjoying it,” she said. “I’m still alive. Friends keep me active. Without friends, it would be very lonely.”
Her daughter, Carmella Loring of Duxbury, says there’s a bit more than that to her mother’s longevity. She’s always had a healthy diet and she continues to exercise. Beyond all that, D’Amelio has a wide circle of friends – people of all ages.
One of them, Ann Reid of Kingston, says an unfailingly positive attitude has also helped add years to D’Amelio’s life.
“She’s so up,” Reid said. “Winnie always has good things to say.”
D’Amelio has kept that attitude despite enduring her share of hardships.
When she was a child in pre-World War I living in Newton, her father’s grocery stores were driven out of business. Her husband died of a sudden heart attack when D’Amelio was 47. With six children to support, she went back to nursing school.
She retired in 1963, at age 58. “I was tired of working,” she said, so she took a four-month freighter voyage around the world.
“I worried about what she would do,” Carmella Loring said, “but she never missed a beat.”
D’Amelio has taken trips with Loring and other children almost every year since she was 75. But she says it’s her volunteer work that “recharges my batteries.”
“Volunteers are the kind of people you want to be with,” she said. “They’re never negative.”
All that activity has made her a familiar figure in Duxbury.
“She’s a very special person,” Art Complex director Charles Weyerhaeuser said.
Weyerhaeuser recalled that when D’Amelio was in her 80s, she bought a bright yellow Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.
“I can always find it in the parking lot,” said D’Amelio, who didn’t quit driving until she was 96.
D’Amelio has no magic formula for living past 100, but she says part of it is pretty simple.
“You don’t waste your time being negative,” she said. “You meet nice people. You get to know the people you like. And it just grows from there.”
Lane Lambert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.