Middletown's Anna Del Priore Has the Secret to a Long Life

by Allison Perrine

Publish Date:

Monday, September 16, 2019 12:00 pm EDT


News Organization:

The Two River Times, Red Bank, NJ

Source URL:

MIDDLETOWN – What’s the secret to a long life?

“Keep running,” said Anna Del Priore, thought to be Middletown’s oldest resident, who celebrated her 107th birthday Sept. 5.

The spirited, smooth-faced centenarian wore a “Birthday Queen” sash, sparkling tiara and black-and-white dress to her birthday bash at Brighton Gardens of Middletown, a Sunrise Senior Living community, where she has lived since 2013.

Being active has always been a part of her life. The Brooklyn native would walk over a mile every day to meet up with friends for coffee at McDonald’s and did so until she turned 100. She and her late husband, Frank, also loved to dance. Frank was a professional tango dancer and the couple showed off their moves through the decades.

And you bet she danced at her own 107th birthday party.

“We have entertainment here weekly and she’s the first to get up to dance,” said Lori Rathgeber, director of sales with Brighton Gardens of Middletown.

“She loves life, always acts young, likes to be around young people. She doesn’t feel her age and doesn’t act her age,” said Darlene Jasmine, Del Priore’s granddaughter.

Some of Del Priore’s favorite memories were of days spent with Frank, or “Beeba,” as her grandchildren call him. They would go to Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan and Luna Park in Coney Island to dance and have fun.

Del Priore maintained a Mediterranean diet all of her life, Jasmine said, often serving up dishes with fish, olive oil, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and pasta.

“On Sunday she made a huge dinner for everybody. She made everything from scratch, the sauce, the meatballs, sausage,” Jasmine said. “She used to cook for like an army. She always made so much food. My grandfather loved having company and she did all the cooking.”

Del Priore also never drank, smoked or sweated the small stuff, her grandson Todd Lalima said. “That’s one thing I say about her, she just rolls with the punches,” he said.

Del Priore, née Ianelli, was born in Brooklyn Sept. 5, 1912 to deaf parents who taught sign language. She had one brother and three sisters who are now deceased, and has one living sister, Helen Guzzone, who also celebrated her birthday Sept. 5. She turned 105.

Del Priore had two daughters who are now both deceased. She lived with Jasmine in Middletown before moving to Brighton Gardens. She was a seamstress in her earlier years and would work on fine ladies’ gloves and brassieres.

“I used to knit,” Del Priore said, recalling when she made little baby booties.

Her birthday party Sept. 5 was well attended by facility residents, staff and Del Priore’s family members in a large open room decorated with purple balloons, including ones that spelled out “107.” An enter tainer provided music from throughout Anna’s life and played several hit songs by one of Del Priore’s favorite performers, Frank Sinatra.

Dancers from Arthur Murray Dance Center were also at the party and Del Priore even got up to dance with them. She was happy to show off her moves to everyone at the party and at times did not want to sit back down.

Middletown committeewoman Pat Snell attended the party on behalf of the mayor’s office to honor Del Priore and to present her with a certificate from the township. She also received a surprise phone call from Gov. Phil Murphy, a Middletown resident, which was placed on speaker for all to hear.

“God bless you, 107 years young! I only wish I could be there in person and dance a little tango with you,” he said.

“Do you have anything you want to say to the governor?” Rathgeber asked Del Priore.

“I love him,” she said in a soft voice.

Murphy chuckled. “I love that! It’s refreshing to hear something other than property taxes,” he replied.

There are currently four residents of Brighton Gardens of Middletown who are over the age of 100, but Del Priore is the oldest person in the facility where 125 residents live.

“I think it’s a testimonial to the care that they get here at Sunrise as well,” said Rathgeber.

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