Pelham’s Marie Serpe celebrates 100th birthday surrounded by family from far and wide

In “Fabulous” sash, Marie Serpe celebrated her 100th birthday at Calvary Hospital.

(BRONX, NY August 14, 2022) – Adorned in a white and red satin sash embroidered with the word “Fabulous” and crowned with a sparkling centenary tiara, Marie Serpe—of Pelham and Greenwich—celebrated her 100th birthday at Calvary Hospital Sunday August 14, surrounded by family, including her children and grandchildren, who came from as far away as Nevada, Texas and Washington.

Under the shade of picnic umbrellas on the hospital’s patio, Marie indulged in the food she loved: saucy take-out pizza, calamari, strong coffee and Italian cookies.

“My feet will be swollen tomorrow, but I’m a 100!” she exclaimed, in her throaty, forceful voice after a big family picture had been taken and the third and fourth pizza boxes were opened.

Weeks after her birth in Sicily, Marie’s parents came to New York and then Greenwich, where she attended Greenwich High School. She loved to play soccer. Her father worked for the Works Progress Administration and her mother was a seamstress at Saltzman and Katz in Port Chester. She was among thousands of volunteers in the Army Air Force Ground Observer Corps, an air-defense system established during WWII to keep watch over coastal skies so that no hostile planes approached unnoticed. Armed with binoculars, she and other volunteers would take their post night or day atop the New Rochelle Hospital.

“We would report our sightings. I had my wings,” she smiled. “It was fun!”

Civic-minded, she would later become a court clerk in Pelham.

Marie was also fascinated by the introduction of new technology, especially straight-shaft or dial candlestick phones, which reminded her of daffodils. A former switchboard operator for the phone company on Greenwich Avenue, she turned her interest into a job, patching cords into sockets and instantly connecting people.

Her husband, Alfred, instantly connected with Marie, telling her the first day they met at a baptism party that she was the one for him. It took a while for Marie, however, to warm up.

“I’ll never forget it. I had a green dress on, and he looked at me, and said ‘You know what? We’re getting married.’ I looked at him and said, ‘What are you drinking?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Just you wait and see.’”

Laughing, Marie went home and told her mother: “’Can you imagine, him saying he wants to marry me?’ And my mother said, ‘You could do worse!’”

A few weeks later, they were married.

Marie Serpe’s birthday party with family, including children and grandchildren, from across the country.

Alfred was known as Bing. A volunteer fireman and U.S. sailor, he worked for New York landmark grocer Gristedes and was a crooner, according to Marie. And boy, he could belt them, just like Crosby:

“He would sing to me ‘Girl of My Dreams’ and ‘When Your Hair Has Turned to Silver (I Will Love You Just the Same).’ And we just loved ‘Slow Boat to China.’ That was our song. Whenever we heard it, we just looked for each other,” Marie reminisced.

Alfred and Marie were together for 79 years, before his death. Their son, Richard, died in 2018.

Marie said she doesn’t feel 100. Much of that may be due to her generous and bountiful baking. She is known for a mean crumb cake, cookies, pumpkin bread and rum balls “with lots of rum.”

The desserts are sweet, but it’s her acerbic wit, brilliant mind, simplicity and positive attitude toward life that makes Marie so unstoppable, according to her loving nephew and primary caregiver, Anthony Riccobono.

“She’s so so smart,” he said. “And having everyone here is just what she wants. She’s ready for whatever comes next.”

What was next, on the festooned patio, was cake. The pizza was finished.

“I tell my family to find something in life you can laugh at. You can get through anything if you can find some humor in it. It’s wonderful being 100!”

Cento di questi giorni, Marie!

Editor’s note: Mike Donahue, director of public affairs and community relations at Calvary Hospital, submitted this write up.