With a smile and a puff of breath, Elisa DelGreco blew out the candles on her birthday cake. But this wasn't just any cake: It was a celebration of her 103rd birthday.
The oldest child of the late Crescenco and Maria Guiseppa DelGreco, Elisa was born on Oct. 25, 1909 in Zuperelli, Italy. Today she resides in the Summit Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Lehighton, where she enjoys spending time with her friends and family and remains fiercely independent.
Thursday's party was Elisa's second celebration of the week. Her family gathered on Saturday to mark the occasion, and Summit staff members arranged a second party for friends and nurses. State Rep. Doyle Heffley was also on site to congratulate Elisa and read a proclamation celebrating the milestone.
"I hope to make 103," said Heffley, after offering the proclamation and good wishes to Elisa.
"I never expected this," she responded. "This is wonderful."
Elisa was the oldest of 11 children. She has three surviving siblings: a sister, 95, and brother, 83, living in Italy, and a sister, 82, in London. She credits her longevity to working hard as a child and young woman on her family's farm in Italy.
"I worked very hard on the farm. It made me strong," she said. Elisa also enjoyed making and drinking wine, red wine being her favorite. She fondly recalled picking grapes and making wine on the family farm and squishing the grapes with her feet. Her family also raised wheat, corn, cows and pigs.
Elisa has two daughters, Maria and Anna. She also has six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. She met her husband, Frank DelGreco, in Zuperelli. They married in 1934 and soon immigrated to England.
After her husband's passing in 1988, she lived alone in England for eight years before coming to the United States to live with Maria and her husband William Leickel in Slatington.
During the party, Elisa and her daughter Maria showed off a birthday card from the Queen of England. She received the card three years ago for her 100th birthday.
"It must be something special, that she has lived for so long, and so well," said Maria, 77.