First Posted: 4/25/2013
On their feet with a glass of water or cup of coffee raised in hand, the Red Hat Ladies of Blooms and Bubbles toasted Sister Red Hat Josephine Emma Lazzari on the occasion of her 100th birthday, followed by the singing of “Happy Birthday” and “She’s a Jolly Good Red Hat” at Fox Hill Country Club.
The Red Hat Sisters doubled as reporters and asked questions concerning Lazzari’s life, longevity and outlook. Here’s the Josephine Emma Lazzari story:
“I was born in the early 10th century on April 27, 1913, in the city of Pittston to Sicilian immigrant parents, Ignatius and Theresa Battisti Emma. The first bambina of eight children - five daughters and three sons - I was blessed with a loving heart and a great love of God.
My young life was sad and hard. Papa died, leaving Mama a young widow at 36 years of age to raise our family. We survived on the relief. To help support our family, I began to work at the age of 11 with someone else’s working papers. My first job was at the Alpine Silk Mill located in what is now the Cooper Co-op Building as a bobbin girl. I filled my apron with bobbins and filled the machines or passed them out to the workers. My pay for the week was $7.
At age 14, I began to work in the General Cigar Factory where I learned quickly and eventually became the floor lady. Many years later while vacationing in Florida, I was in a group of ladies who were bragging about the stores and factories they owned. When they asked me, I fibbed a little and told them I owned a cigar factory.
Each day whether it rained, snowed or the sun shone, walking to work was a must. Pittston in the early 1900s had dirt roads, no sidewalks, horse and buggies, hucksters who went from street to street selling their wares and downtown had very few stores. On route to work, I remember passing Fasciana’s and Constintino’s, two little stores that were almost like five and dime stores. You could buy everything in them.
Love found its way into my heart when meeting a dark, handsome man named Vincent Lazzari. As was the custom, he asked my mother for my hand in marriage. My mother, knowing he would be a good husband and provider, said ‘yes.’ We were married in St.Rocco’s Church on June 24, 1936. Life was good but especially great when our son, Cataldo Vinent Lazzari, was born in 1941. They were both the loves of my life.
For the next 27 years, we shared our lives with its ups and downs, laughing, crying, singing, dancing, sometimes struggling, but happy. They were the best years of my life with “Sweety Heart” as he called me. He died at the age of 63 in 1963 and still has my heart.
Life goes on and it was filled with my son and three sisters who lived in Pittston, Grace Frushon, (deceased) Theresa Sagliocola, (deceased) and Mary Alexander. God and church have been priorities in my life. Walking each day to St. John the Evangelist Church to attend mass, occasionally to do a little volunteer work and meeting the ladies of the church give me pleasure. God has given me a beautiful long life. I believe in ‘Ask and you will receive.’
For many years, my residence was across the street from the Pittston fire house. Through the years, I became a good listening ear and friend to the veteran and young firefighters. Many cups of coffee and conversations were shared on my front porch. They are all special to me.
I have been asked about life in the present. I thank God for fairly good health, ability to walk to my destinations, ride the bus to Wilkes-Barre a few days a week, breakfast at Boscov’s, love music and the ability to still dance the tarantella and enjoy numerous friends. Food has never been important to me. In fact, pasta is a dish I cannot eat. What kind of an Italian is that? My daughter-in-law has a name for it.
I have been told that my meatballs are great. My secret is frying before putting them in the sauce. I promised to give the girls in the Red Hats my recipe.
Celebrating my 100th birthday has been like a Polish wedding. I have been honored and remembered by the St. Joseph Senior Social Club, the members of the Altar and Rosary Society of St. John the Evangelist Parish Community, my sister Red Hats of Blooms and Bubbles of Greater Pittston, the officials, firefighters and policemen of Pittston City and, on my birthday on April 27, with a family and friends party. I am very grateful to all who remembered me.”
When all the questions were answered and the frivolity with the Red Hats came to an end, Josephine rose and, with arms outstretched meaning to enfold each of us, she expressed her gratitude, appreciation and love. She then folded her hands, closed her eyes and prayed “The Hail Mary” for and with the Red Hats. “The secret of my life is to love everyone.”