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Woman celebrates her 102nd birthday

Antonia Angileri celebrated her 102nd birthday Saturday with family and friends at Dunedin Care Center.

Born Antonia DiStefano on Sept. 3, 1898, she immigrated to the United States from Italy when she was 16. She came to join a sister, Bridget Urso, and her family in Chicago and lived with them until she married Antonio Angileri.

Antonio and Antonia actually both came from the same small town of Marsala on the island of Sicily, but they did not meet until they attended an Italian wedding in Chicago.

Their own formal wedding ceremony on Oct. 15, 1922, was at Lady Pompeii Catholic Church in Chicago. It was followed by a reception in the empty store on the west side of Chicago that the bride and groom soon opened as a family market. They lived in a four-room apartment behind the store.

To open the business, Angileri went into debt to the tune of $10,000 (a lot of money back in 1923). The fire department declared the building unsafe. They threatened to close the market before it opened, but the stubborn immigrants begged for time to make the necessary improvements.

Within a few years, they had restored the structures and their business was prospering.

Their only child, Jocco, also known as Jack, was born the next year. He worked with them through most of the 47 years they operated the mom-and-pop market.

"According to my dad, I sold my first quart of milk at the age of 1," said Jack. "But actually, what I did was toddle back to the case and carry the bottle up to the customer."

When Jack married in 1946, he moved with his new bride into one of two apartments above the store, and everyone pitched in to make a success of the family business. Several years later, they expanded the store into the previous family quarters and Antonio and Antonia moved into the second apartment above the market.

"We got along well. We had no problems working and living together. Back in those days the neighborhood was nice," the younger Angileri recalled. "It was just more family all around you. Twenty some years later after I was held up five times in four months, I decided it was time to do something else."

He moved his family into the suburbs and he and his wife took positions with rival department stores. Soon after, the elder couple moved nearby.

Unwilling to retire, Antonio took a part-time job at which he worked until he was 83. In 1978 the store was sold. Antonio died in 1987.

The younger couple purchased an apartment in Top of the World and were seasonal residents for 20 years before they retired here in 1985. In 1995, Mrs. Angileri moved down. She moved two years ago to the Dunedin Care Center from a Clearwater assisted living facility.

Jack Angileri and his wife had one son who died at 45 and a daughter who lives in Chicago and owns a condo on Sand Key which she visits three to four weeks every year. They have one grandson.

Even though his mother doesn't always know his name, "She still smiles when she sees me," said Jack. He and his wife visit her daily. "I feel guilty if I take a day off," he admitted. "After all, Mom gave me a lot. It's my turn now."

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