Life spanning 2 centuries, 108 year old feted by 5 generations

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Rochester Hills — At the spry age of 108, Rosaria "Sara" Martinico has seen it all: Two World Wars, the Great Depression, presidents and world issues come and go, family members born and those who have passed on.

But on Sunday, as she surveyed a room full of people watching, capturing and marveling at her every move, nothing looked better than the scores of family and friends who came to celebrate her long years on earth.

"It's wonderful," she said, about the birthday celebration four days after she actually turned 108. "I appreciate it. I'm tired ... but I have had a good life."

Rosaria "Sara" Martinico, right, is hugged by her great, great granddaughter Quinn, age 3, during Rosaria's 108th birthday party in Rochester Hills, Mich., Sunday, July 22, 2018.

Of the attention she was receiving from the media for her birthday party at the American House Village Senior Living facility where she lives in Rochester Hills, she added: "It's not necessary, but if it's news, it's news. It's too much. "

On hand were five generations of family members, the youngest just shy of a year old; the mayor of Rochester Hills; her Catholic priest; Metro Detroit TV cameras; and friends from the senior home. Even her physician came to celebrate his "oldest living patient." He said he pays visits to her every six months to check her blood pressure, heart and lungs.

"At her hundredth birthday, everybody's coming up to me and saying, 'Hey good job, Doc.' I'm like, talk to the priest right over there. It's between him, God and her," said Dr. Terrence Brennan. "It's got nothing to do with me. She can keep going. A lot of it's attitude. She's got this attitude like, 'OK, I'm here,' whereas people who get into their 90s and 100s are like, why does He want me here?"

Resplendent in her turquoise lace outfit with a white shawl on her lap and pink beads around her neck, Martinico didn't blow out the three candles on the cake. Her great-great grandchildren did the honors.

Just ask her family how sharp she is and every one of them will reveal that she could name every person in the room.

Rosaria "Sara" Martinico, center, sits with her two daughters, Josephine Strnad, left, and Betty Strnad, during Rosaria's 108th birthday at her home in Rochester Hills, Mich., Sunday, July 22, 2018.

"When she gets discouraged and said she's lived too long, I tell her that most people haven't gotten to see their great-great grandkids," said her grandson Tim Strnad, 63. "And she always says, 'They're so precious.' And she goes, 'I am blessed.' "

Martinico was born in Detroit in 1910 of Italian heritage. William Howard Taft was president and it was four years before the start of World War I. She married in 1928, bearing two daughters — Betty Strnad, 89, and Josephine Strnad, 85 — both of whom flanked their mother at the party.

She served as one of the "Rosie the Riveters," who during World War II worked in factories and shipyards to help build weapons while men were in battle. Martinico worked on B-17 bombers for six months, her family said.

Her husband of 57 years passed away in 1985, family said, at the age of 85, and she's lost all of her siblings. But with two daughters, eight grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren, life — with the help of a walker —carries on for Martinico.

"She is blessed," said her daughter, Betty Strnad.

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