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Ruskin area woman celebrates 108th birthday

Angelina Padula sits with aide Sheri Worthington during Padula’s 108th birthday party at the Ruskin Senior Center on Tuesday. “It’s really a milestone,” said one party guest.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Angelina Padula sits with aide Sheri Worthington during Padula’s 108th birthday party at the Ruskin Senior Center on Tuesday. “It’s really a milestone,” said one party guest.

RUSKIN

A lot happened in 1903.

The Wizard of Oz premiered in New York City. The major leagues held the first baseball World Series. The Wright brothers took their first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk.

And, in a little town in Italy, a girl named Angelina was born.

Fast-forward 108 years, past the advent of phones and television and computers, and there she is — scooping a hunk of chocolate cake with thick white icing into her mouth, which, by the way, is denture-free and filled with all her own teeth.

"The doctors are amazed," said Angelina Padula's son-in-law, Ed Rose, at Padula's Italian-themed birthday party at the Ruskin Senior Center on Tuesday.

Somehow, despite a golf ball-sized (albeit benign) tumor in her brain, despite outliving nearly all her peers, Padula is still kicking.

Well, maybe not kicking, but certainly bobbing her plastic-crown-topped head to a violinist's serenading at Tuesday's celebration.

"It's really a milestone," said 84-year-old party guest Margaret A. Lewis, whose late father was born the same year as Padula. "It sure is."

The secret to the nearly 80-pound Padula's long life is up for guessing.

Perhaps her hefty appetite and Mediterranean-style diet — olive oil, fruits, nuts and the like — has something to do with it. Or maybe it's the small glass of red wine she sips each night.

Ask Padula, and she simply bats her eyes, perhaps waves demurely with her long, red nail-polished fingers.

It has been a few years since she carried on a conversation, her son-in-law said, but no matter.

Tuesday she was the star of the show.

Sitting atop a stage converted into a cardboard gondola, Padula listened as members of Hillsborough County Aging Services presented her family with commendations from the Board of County Commissioners, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

Padula scarfed down soft bread with herb butter as staffers regaled the crowd with her life story — coming to America with her U.S. soldier husband in 1921, learning to speak English from the matinee films in New York City, raising her daughter, Lucille, and four nephews, and finally moving to Florida with family in the 1990s.

When it came time for a toast, Padula had already guzzled her sparkling white grape juice before everybody could toast and sing Happy Birthday.

And when that big slice of cake came her way, Padula dug in.

She left a clean plate.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or kwilmath@sptimes.com.

Ruskin area woman celebrates 108th birthday 02/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 3:30am]

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