WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Some local women old enough to remember the Roaring '20s lived it up a little Wednesday night, sharing the spotlight with performers celebrating the 100th birthday of an American icon.
It was opening night of Disney On Ice: 100 Years of Magic at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza; the show is one of numerous celebrations that have been ongoing since 2001 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Walt Disney, who was born in 1901. And for this show, seven special ladies who either reached or are shortly about to reach that milestone were the guests of honor.
Aldona Craig, 101, and Rose Rossi, 103, both of Wilkes-Barre, said they fondly remembered watching Disney shows on TV and in the movies over the years.
All this will be a pleasure to me, Craig said before Frankie Warren of Magic 93 WMGS-FM introduced them to a cheering audience and presented them with bouquets of roses and Disney On Ice photographs before the show.
Rossi, who grew up near Coughlin High School and remembered her mother operating a store nearby, also recalled a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida and was anxious to see the show.
Susan Bawn, 100, also of Wilkes-Barre, was short on words but beamed a smile while wearing a Disney princess tiara.
Miriam Walton, of Tunkhannock, said she will turn 100 in May. And while her daughter, Kay Stencel, said her mom can do anything, one thing Walton couldn't do was pinpoint what helped her live to a ripe, old age. I've never learned that, she said.
Dorothy Turner, 100, of Pittston, couldn't attend the event but was represented by her friend, Lena Staley, who attributed Walton's long life to her positive attitude.
Lena Gregori, of West Pittston, said she reached 99 years of age because of good family, good friends. And I do my own cooking, she added, rattling off some of her favorite Italian dishes.
Josephine Yarrish, of Wilkes-Barre, speculated that she was lucky enough to turn 100 in July because I never smoked and I never really drank, except some wine at a family dinner.
Yarrish, who said she was really surprised and shocked and honored because only a few were chosen to be honored as centenarians, added that she attends exercise groups every day at an assisted living center and has always been a picky eater, avoiding greasy foods that can lead to heart disease. She recommended younger folks do the same.
Thanks to advances in medicine and education about healthier living, Americans are living longer. And the number of centenarians is growing, according to U.S. Census figures.
In 1990, there were 37,306 Americans 100 years or older, or about one in every 10,000. In 2010, there were 53,364, or 1.73 for every 10,000 people.
Pennsylvania ranked fifth in the nation among states for centenarians in 2010, boasting 2,510. California led the pack at 5,921.
As for the proportion of the state population that was 100 or older, Pennsylvania ranked 20th with 0.0198 percent of the population being centenarians.
Luzerne County ranked 11th out of Pennsylvania counties, with 70 centenarians. All but six were women.