With cold rain and high winds predicted for the City Council meeting on Feb. 24, few but the bravest souls were expected to make their way to City Hall, even to celebrate a monumental event like a 100th birthday.
So it was no surprise that Susan Lorricchio attended the event in her mother’s place to hear the council pass a proclamation honoring Josephine Lorricchio for her recent 100th birthday.
But the centenarian resident of Jersey City didn’t miss anything, listening to the whole ceremony via cellular phone and having her voice heard as Susan held the phone up to the microphone to thank the council.
“Like a thread of fine silk, her commitment as a mother, neighbor and to the Holy Rosary Church is woven into the community fabric that makes Jersey City so special.” – Candice Osborne
This ironic tie to communications seems to have run throughout her long life. Her father served in the Signal Corps in World War II.
A witness to Jersey City history
In some ways, this girl from Jersey City managed to catch some of the more important historic moments in Jersey City history.
“She saw the Hindenburg fly down the Hudson River,” Susan said.
Although most people recall the Hindenburg from the disaster that occurred on May 6, 1937 when it caught fire during an attempt to land at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J., the German air ship was a popular attraction for people on the ground, and made several famous trips, including a 10.5-hour trip to New England in October 1936 called the “Millionaires’ Flight.”
Josephine and others also walked through the Holland Tunnel on November 1927 the first day it was opened to traffic.
Actually older than she seems
Josephine was actually born on Dec. 17, 1915. But since the midwife did not record her birth until Jan. 2, 1916, two weeks of her life have vanished in time. She celebrates her birthday on Jan. 2 each year. She attended Public School No. 32 in 1929 and then attended William Dickinson High School in 1933 from which she graduated with honors.
Although this was in the midst of The Great Depression, Josephine managed to get a job after graduation. She worked for Uneeda, a clothing store near Coles Street on Newark Avenue. She became a trusted employee who handled cash as well as sold clothing.
On April 25, 1937, she married Angelo Charles Loricchio, a native of the Greenville section of Jersey City. They had three children, Francis, John, and Susan, whom they raised in Jersey City.
In the 1950s, Josephine and Angelo organized Christian Youth Organization dances at Holy Rosary Church near Sixth and Monmouth streets. In order to avoid the cost of having the church buy records, Josephine recorded songs off Hit Parade on the radio.
In 1968, Angelo passed away, leaving Josephine to raise Susan, her youngest child, as a single parent.
After 32 years absent from the work force, she had to seek employment. She landed a job with a Newark Avenue company called Sandra Lane where she worked part time during the day, and also worked for Holy Rosary in the evening. Eventually, then church pastor, Joseph Cevetello, offered her full time employment at the church.
She started as a receptionist, later became a secretary, and eventually the bookkeeper until she retired at age 82.
She has been described as extremely helpful and always willing to do extra, whether it involved helping a parishioner locate a Baptismal certificate, consoling those in need, or just listening to the lonely who called at the church rectory.
In 1999, a new pastor at the church asked her to return to Holy Rosary part time. This required her to renew her notary public commission. Unfortunately a few days later, she had a major stroke that undermined her physically. But according to her family, it has not diminished her spirit.
Although no longer in Jersey City, she still loves it
Josephine thanked the council via the cellular phone for the honor.
“She was thrilled about this,” Susan said after the ceremony. “We talked about it last night. She loves Jersey City.”
Although members of her family still reside in Jersey City, Josephine currently lives in Morris View Healthcare Center in Morris Plains, a facility with a good reputation and close enough for family members to visit.
Susan said although they would like to have her at home, Josephine requires too much care to be at home.
“It was no longer safe, with all the frenzied construction dust from the nearby monster-sized projects on our block,” Susan said. “The old houses have too many nooks and crannies where micro dust was constantly (and still is) raining in. I want to be able to bring her home for visits, so she has the feeling of that option and connection to home.”
But if she’s lonely for Jersey City, all she has to do is reach out to Frank Infante, the facility’s administrator, who is a resident of Jersey City Heights.
“At 100, life in general is a struggle,” Susan said. “Only the past months we have seen a significant decline. She is exhausted more so than anything. She used to attend every activity and event. Not so much now. She is frail, that is why I did not bring her.”
Josephine is legally blind and can no longer read for herself, but she loves to watch the news on TV, and tries to stay awake for the 10 p.m. News on Fox 5. She attends Bible study at Morris View, as well as non denominational services they offer, but aims for the Catholic Mass on Tuesdays.
“She is still very conscientious about her faith,” Susan said.
This year, she got to celebrate her birthday twice, once on Dec. 17 – which was videotaped – and again on traditional Jan. 2.
“What an honor for the City Council to recognize Josephine’s 100th birthday,” said Downtown Councilwoman Candice Osborne. “Like a thread of fine silk, her commitment as a mother, neighbor and to the Holy Rosary Church is woven into the community fabric that makes Jersey City so special.”
“I just want to wish her a happy 100th birthday and to tell her if things get better with age, then she’s approaching magnificent,” said Councilman Daniel Rivera.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.