Mary Celebre has lived in the neighborhood her entire life, and said she still feels like a teenager.
Mary Celebre has lived in Port Richmond through ten decades — she’s seen the neighborhood go through prohibition, the Great Depression, wars, advances in industry, music and clothing styles, and the ever-increasing changes that simply come with the passing of time.
She’s seen loved ones and family pass on, but to this day keeps herself surrounded by friends.
Dozens of those friends, in fact, were present to celebrate her 101st birthday Dec. 4 at the Rizzo PAL in Port Richmond.
The main thing she had to say about the neighborhood?
“It looks the same, I’ll tell you,” Celebre said with a laugh as she noshed on pizza. The centenarian — plus one — who most call “Mamie,” said that through most of her long life, she liked to work.
She worked in a stationery factory when she was young, favoring her job above her studies. The first school she attended in Port Richmond was what is now Charles Carroll Elementary.
“I hated school,” she said. “I wanted to work.”
She also said she enjoyed the outdoors when she was growing up.
“As long as I was outside, I was alright,” she said.
Celebre’s mother and father were born in Italy, and she said she spoke some Italian with them when she was younger. Port Richmond, she said, was like a “Little Italy” years ago.
Now, she lives with her daughter, Frances, and granddaughter, Allison, on Somerset Street. Though she said the neighborhood looks mostly the same as it did when she was growing up, she did speak of the shops and landmarks that have long since disappeared, such as a favorite chicken shop and the haberdashery her late husband, Salvatore, owned.
Celebre was married at Mother of Divine Grace church when she was 21.
“I had a good marriage,” she said. “He [husband Salvatore] played jokes on everyone.”
Now that her four brothers and one sister have all passed away, Celebre treasures the time she spends with her living children and grandchildren.
She said she is a big Flyers fan, and showed off the Flyers keychain she carries in her purse.
Asked the secret to her long life, Celebre just laughed. A friend sitting nearby leaned in and said, “She just got up every morning.”
“I feel 16,” Celebre said, and smiled.
Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.