A Century of Laughter and Joy

Originally published July 22, 2014

Rose Ceselka is sharp as a tack. She enjoys listening to Willie Nelson and the soundtrack of “Les Misérables,” reading to her friends in the library, and frequently jokes about taking a trip to a local bar.Those who know her the best describe her as a woman with a great sense of humor, quick wit and a huge heart.

Ms. Ceselka partied all weekend with her friends and family as she celebrated her 100th birthday, which fell on Sunday, July 20.

And on Monday afternoon, the longtime Hampton Bays resident was surprised by her friends who gathered at her current residence—the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton Village—and presented her with a birthday cake, balloons and a dozen yellow roses.

Those who chat with Ms. Ceselka on a regular basis can be excused for not realizing that she is now a member of what her friends in the nursing home call “The 100 Club.”

That’s because she spends most of her time talking and laughing among friends and a few relatives who visit frequently, and reading to others in the nursing home.

“I read a lot,” she said. “I like a good story. I can’t walk too well, so I don’t go far. But I read.”

She often visits the nursing home library with friends, like Millie DeMarco, 86, and Shelia Raymond, 80, both of whom have trouble with their eyesight. She often reads to them for hours.

“No love stories, though,” Ms. Ceselka said. “I don’t like them. Fiction, fairy tales, magazines—them I’ll read.”

She’s known by the nursing home staff for her sharp mind and knowledge of current events.

Marty Robinson, a recreational aide at the Hamptons Center, said he has never met someone who knows so much about everything. Occasionally, he notes that Ms. Ceselka has to fight to ensure that she’s the first to secure copies of the daily newspapers that are delivered to the nursing home.

Ms. Ceselka grew up in Manhattan and raised two children in Southampton with her husband, Nicholas, who died in 1989. She spends her time with her daughters, Karen Gallo of Hampton Bays, and Catherine Ceselka of Florida, and her granddaughters, Ramona Gallo of Hampton Bays and Gigi Percival of Bayport. Her extended family came to celebrate her birthday this past weekend at Ms. Gallo’s home in Hampton Bays.

Ms. Ceselka never worked a full-time job, choosing instead to spend her days taking care of her family. First she cared for her mother, Tessie Demytor, who became ill when she was young. She then took care of her sister, Sophie Kuciw, and her two brothers, William Kuciw and Joseph Demytor, all of whom are now deceased.

The rest of her time was spent caring for her husband and daughters before her husband retired and they moved to Hampton Bays in the early 1980s. When he died, she lived with her granddaughter, Ramona, until 2011, when she moved into the Hamptons Center.

“I love being with my friends and family,” she said at her birthday party Monday afternoon. “They’re the best. I’m so happy.”

Friend Millie DeMarco, who has known Ms. Ceselka for years, said it is her kind heart and generous spirit that keeps her going every day.

“I’ve never seen her not smiling,” she said, “or comforting someone else. She never complains about a thing.”

That stood true on Monday as Ms. Ceselka kept thanking everyone for attending her party and telling everyone how much she cared for them.

The guests at her party, mostly residents of the nursing home, wheeled themselves around a long table to share in Ms. Ceselka’s birthday cake. They all chimed in to wish her a happy birthday, wishing her many more to come.

When asked about her secret to leading such a long life, Ms. Ceselka said she could not pinpoint one thing that keeps her spirit young.

“I used to sing, but only in my house when no one was home,” she confessed. “I used to dance too, but when I was home. Maybe that’s what did it.”