Antoinette "Lena" Gerardi Scarpaci was born March 19, 1908, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the eldest of five children born to Nicola and Vincenza Gerardi, who had emigrated from Italy two years earlier.
Mrs. Scarpaci celebrated her 100th birthday March 15 in the auditorium at the Oaks of Clearwater with many friends and relatives.
An inquisitive youngster, Mrs. Scarpaci would ask her parents to tell her about their lives in the old country. She is proud of her heritage and taught herself to speak Sicilian well enough to converse with relatives. She toured Sicily in 1970, when she visited her parents' birthplace of Calatafimi and became acquainted with some cousins, and returned again in 1995.
Mrs. Scarpaci and her sister quit school at ages 15 and 13, respectively, to help the family finances. She worked in office jobs, then part time as an office nurse for a gynecologist. Her final employment was as a clerk typist for Nassau County on Long Island in New York.
At 20, she married Frank J. Scarpaci. Their 63-year marriage produced three children, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. The couple moved to Clearwater in 1973 and lived on Barcelona Drive. After her husband died, Mrs. Scarpaci lived alone for several years before she became a resident of the Oaks of Clearwater in 1998.
Mrs. Scarpaci was an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan and in the mid 1940s participated in the team's historic Knothole Gang Club, a program that gave free passes to children during the 1940s and '50s to attend afternoon Dodgers games at Ebbets Field. She invited all the children on the block to attend and paid for their subway fare, and hot dogs and sodas at the games.
Everyone enjoyed Mrs. Scarpaci's cooking. She was especially renowned for the Sicilian pizza she created from a recipe she got from her father, a baker.
"She always followed nutrition and gardening tips in the newspaper, wanting to learn how to improve and maintain well-being," said her daughter, Vincenza Scarpaci.
Today, the centenarian hands out favorite recipes and still gets a yen for escarole with cannellini beans.
She follows politics and, even though legally blind, keeps herself up to date on the latest issues by reading the newspaper daily. She's looking forward to voting in November's presidential election.
"One of my mother's greatest attributes is her sense of humor and ability to adjust to life's transitions," Vincenza Scarpaci added. "When she became legally blind, she embraced the talking books service."
Mrs. Scarpaci has always admired individuals who fight for social causes and encourages friends to get involved. She isn't a stranger to activism, and has lobbied for several positive changes at her residence that have been enacted. She enjoys a good discussion and will share her opinions on currents events, classical music and opera.
"As long as a person remains interested in life, they remain young," Vincenza Scarpaci said of her mother's philosophy, and added, "She's a good role model."
Couple celebrates 60th anniversary
Dillman and Evelyn Ralston of Clearwater celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on March 30 at Clearwater Country Club with family and friends.
They were married March 27, 1948, in Jeffersonville, Ind., and came here in 1958 from Cross Plains, Ind.
Mr. Ralston worked 22 years in television sales and service in Dunedin. An active golfer, he is a Mason, longtime member of the Dunedin Kiwanis Club and a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Mrs. Ralston, a homemaker, enjoys dancing and reading.
The couple likes to travel.
Both are members of Union Street Methodist Church in Clearwater.
They have two daughters, two grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Hospice group honors eight volunteers
The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast recently gave eight awards during its annual volunteer appreciation luncheon. The honored volunteers are Irene Southwick, Judy Schnepper, Janet Moon, Peg McAleer, Amy-Joy Thompson, Jennie Lee, Kathy Muranyi-Seiler and David Lamp.
Secretary at Pownall wins annual award
Pinellas County school employee Sharon Ingram has been chosen 2008 office professional of the year by the Florida Association of Educational Office Professionals.
She will receive the award during the organization's annual conference June 11-14 at Cypress Gardens.
Ms. Ingram is secretary to the associate superintendent for facilities and operations and has worked for 33 years with Pinellas County schools, the past 18 years at the Walter Pownall Service Center in Largo.
She is completing a second two-year term as president of the Pinellas Association of Educational Office Professionals and is a member of the state executive board. Ms. Ingram, a candidate for president-elect of the Florida Association of Educational Office Professionals, is a chairwoman of the organization's state Ways and Means Committee and has served on numerous other state committees. She has been a member of the local association for 30 years and the state group for 15 years.
To submit an item, write to Nova Beall, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Fax to (727) 445-4119 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Good For You includes news of 50th wedding anniversaries, people celebrating their 100th birthday (or more) and young people's noteworthy achievements academically, in the arts or community service. For information or an anniversary form, call (727) 445-4221.