Another 100th Birthday

Jos 100th birthday










Sign of the times








Or so I am told, it’s rare to see someone live to see their 100th birthday. About four years ago, I attended a 100th birthday for my Auntie Annette Marijan’s Mother Millie, who a year later passed on. Well, it’s happened again. This time, our family friend, Felicia Labbruzzo Mastreoni’s mother Josephine, crossed Century Boulevard. She lives in Port Chester, New York, a widow (her husband Mike died a few months after the two celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2001) with a cat named Pumpkin (she had a tuxedo cat named Tuxedo, but he became too much to handle). And she is known for baking cookies and continues to do so even at her age. She has a warm spirit about her and it leads me to call her grandma. This as the writer’s own grandma Nellie passed on 25 years ago last April. Now it’s Grandma Jo’s turn to join the century club.


Welcome to the Party








Welcome to the party!


A dinner was held at the Norwalk Inn and Conference Center in Norwalk, CT. This was a last minute change. The festivities were to take place at a downtown Stamford restaurant Quattro Pazzi. But Felicia, who made the arrangement for the dinner, ran into trouble with the restaurant and the staff given its downtown location and rather tight quarters. How could this venue seat 80 people, mostly family and long time friends? As a result, the Norwalk Inn was chosen. But this led to another problem…the main course choices, once three of Chicken Francaise, Prime Rib and Salmon, were reduced to two; with salmon being omitted.  First course was about a half cup of Penne Alla Vodka, followed by a salad with a hint of Gorgonzola cheese dressing and even some sweetness with dried Craisins.  Then came our main courses, I took the chicken and asked for the sauce on the side.  It would come and I put just enough (couple of spoons) on to make it seem I was a part of it.  Also included was steamed carrots and asparagus and a half of a baked potato.  By the way Jo’s two great grandkids were there and they had chicken fingers and french fries just so they could enjoy themselves.










One of the many tables decorated.  Pink and lavender were the colors du jour.


Even though it was a warm and sunny day outside, the festivities were conducted under more climate controlled conditions inside the main hall of the Norwalk Inn, complete with some live entertainment, a couple of singers, one of whom knows the family.  Each of the tables was decked out in party favors including little candies and each guest received some sweet treats, one of which involved mother, myself and most importantly our neighbor Janet.


cat cookie










 A cat cookie


I rant and rave about life in Greenwich and Connecticut overall for many reasons. But one great thing about a neighbor Janet is she is a chef. Brief story on her, she came here from Virginia a couple of years ago where she was living for a couple of years after going to school to be a chef. She does that, but also works as a babysitter. Well we asked her to make special cookies in the shape of a cat as a tribute to Pumpkin and Josephine’s love for him and cats overall. Janet made 100 cookies, to hand out to each guest at the party, totaling 80. With the 20 leftover, who knows where they will go. Each bag the cookie comes in is decorated with a ribbon (courtesy Michael’s Arts and Crafts).  Needless to say the cookies were the “cat’s meow.”  Speaking of cats…










This handsome fella is Pumpkin.  He loves Jo, but is sort of scared and runs away from others taking off in a flash.  He is not all black.  There is a streak of white running down his front.

Now, I am not one to namedrop, but Jo and some of her crew met a TV judge.  Now I would like to meet Judge Andrew Napolitano or Judge Jeanine Pirro, but, in this case…

JO and family with Judge Milian







Here come the judge!


It was People’s Court Judge Marilyn Milian.  Turns out during a conversation we had before the party began at with Felicia that The People’s Court tapes in Stamford.  I thought it was in New York (TV Trivia…when Joseph Wapner presided over the court in the original 1980’s run, the show was in LA.  It then moved to New York for its current run with judges ranging from the late former NYC Mayor Ed Koch to Judge Judy’s husband Jerry Sheindlin to the current judge Milian).  By the way other TV shows, mainly the trashy talk shows of Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos and Trisha Goddard call The Rich Forum home (I wish they didn’t) and also this fall Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with a new host will be looking for one in Stamford with a new host replacing Cedric The Entertainer who replaced Meredith Vieira after her long Emmy-winning run.

Oh, I bet you are wondering what Jo looks like today.  Well here you go along with a picture of yours truly 40 pounds or so lighter (since September, I have been seeing a nutritionist and trainer in addition to going to the Tully Center in Stamford).


Tom, Jo and Me










Yes gang that’s me along with Tom Mastreoni and the queen herself, Grandma Jo.


And speaking of such…










The woman on the left is my mom, who says she doesn’t take good pictures. (Courtesy Felicia Labbruzzo)


Here’s another picture, only I took it of Tom and Jo with Felicia.

Tom Felicia and Jo











At our table was a woman named Teresa, who happens to be a priest.  She offered up Grace prior to the eating.  My godmother Maryanne was at our table as well and a name from my school past…somewhat.  A woman named Patty Nahay was there.  She is the mother of Nadine, an old schoolmate of mine from Greenwich Catholic.  Sadly she is near legally blind so when she was going to get some of the vegetables from the Crudité, mom and I served as her eyes.  I also served up a glass of wine.  Her husband has Alzheimer’s.  As for Nadine she lives in upstate New York, the town of Niskayuna, which for those of you in TV is where WRGB-TV the CBS station in Albany is located.  It’s north of Schenectady.  And Nadine has to go three hours back and forth to see her parents.  And to think I complain sometimes if I have to help my mother!  I think I have someone for advice if there should be a moment like what Nadine is going through.


It was also a chance to meet someone whom mom and I have spoken to on the phone for many years but rarely saw.  Tom’s mom Mary.  She I guess is in her 90’s, but has her wits about her.  She didn’t know who we were on first glance, but once we told her, her mind snapped to attention.

Family Portrait









Family portrait


In that sharp looking sports coat with the shine next to Jo that’s Mary, who lives in Queens, New York, loves the piano and ice skating.  It was wonderful seeing her.  She’s like a second grandma to me.

But Jo is the star and grandma to many people.  One of those grandsons got up to give a speech and talk about how he would play catch with his grandpa (Mike) or play an intense game of cards, and when every Sunday morning he would ask to have the gravy (what is called tomato sauce) and a piece of bread for dunking and even watching Chicago Cubs baseball on WGN (which will go away next season or so it’s being reported.)  I always say myself “gravy” is the Italian penicillin.  All the while, Jo was watching her favorite soap opera “Days of Our Lives” one of the few still on the air.

Jo grandson speech











There was also a slide show set to music of pictures of all involved in Jo’s life.  Yours truly and mother were included. Then it was Felicia’s turn to make a speech.  And she had most of the female populace at least in tears, my mom included especially when she read something from a former co-worker of hers about how life is like a train.  When we get on it we are born.  And there are many stops on the train and then comes the time for parents to step off the train so the journey of life continues.  And here is that statement…


Felicia speech










Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations…with changes of routes… and with accidents!  At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone. As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of our life.  Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize that they vacated their seats!  This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers… requiring that we give the best of ourselves. The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down.  So, we must live in the best way-love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are.  It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty — we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life. I wish you a joyful journey for this year on the train of life. Reap success and give lots of love. More importantly, thank God for the journey! Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train!


Then it was cake time.  The music was stepped up to favorites like “We Are Family” as the cake was being wheeled out.  A sheet cake made like a peach shortcake was offered…


The Cake








let's have cake










At a table near the doorway into the hall was a display of the birthday bundle with a box meant for birthday cards which mother and I contributed.  Now if you will notice on the far right is a robo-greeting from none other than the President and Mrs. Obama (I will not say anything about this!)


The Bday Bundle








The birthday bundle


Also included on the table is a yearbook of sorts with letters from all family and friends. Ours was included but then printed on papers with pink roses.  Thanks to Jennifer who planned this scrapbook/yearbook.


And one special gift came for Jo just as it did for Millie.  A special commendation from The Pope.  Benedict XVI for Millie, Francis for Jo.


Labruzzo B-Day blessing








Jo and Francis












By the way, many famous people were born in 1914


Jonas Salk…inventor of the polio vaccine (died 1995)

Gypsy Rose Lee…queen of burlesque (died 1970)

George Reeves…TV’s first Superman (died 1959)

Clayton Moore…TV’s Lone Ranger (died 1999)

Joe DiMaggio…The Yankee Clipper (died 1999)

Joe Louis…boxing’s Brown Bomber (died 1981)

Jackie Coogan…Uncle Fester from The Addams Family (died 1984)

Tyrone Power…Actor (died 1958)

Allen Funt…Mr. Candid Camera (died 1999)

Ray Waslton…Uncle Martin from My Favorite Martian (died 2001)

Harry Caray…Cubs and Cardinals announcer (died 1998)

Dorothy Lamour…third cog in the Road pictures with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (died 1996)

Jack LaLanne…health guru (died 2011)

Bert Parks…Mister Miss America and pilot host of The Hollywood Squares (died 1992)

Jonathan Harris…Dr. Zachary Smith on Lost in Space (died 2002)


As for June 20th, Josephine’s birthday is shared with…


Actress Nicole Kidman

Singer Lionel Richie

Actor John Goodman (Roseanne, Arachnophobia)

Beach Boy Brian Wilson

“Canadian Songbird” Anne Murray

Actor Danny Aiello

Actor Martin Landau

Swashbuckling hero Errol Flynn (died 1959)

Actor John Mahoney Frasier’s father, Martin Crane, on “Frasier.”

Olympia Dukakis…actress and cousin of former Mass. Governor Michael Dukakis



And so as 5:00 rolled around it was time to go home…or grocery shopping as was our case.  But a grand time was had by all.  I want to thank Tom and Felicia for inviting us to this amazing even.  And to Grandma Jo, the second 100 years begins now!


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