Frances Amico has blown out many candles during her lifetime. There’s only guessing how many. On Saturday evening she was faced with three more, which is a good thing because if there had been a true representation of her age the cake would have likely set off the fire alarm at Greenwood Terrace.
Frances celebrated her 102nd birthday at a surprise party planned by Greenwood Terrace Association President Roseanne Andrews and treasurer Nancy DeShaies. As about 30 tenants gathered in a meeting room with tables colorfully decorated and a bouquet of balloons tied to a chair where Frances would sit, Roseanne went to get Frances. The room went silent. Someone flicked off the lights, but then thought better and turned them back on.
As Frances made her entrance, everyone sang “Happy Birthday.” She was caught speechless, but only for a moment. Frances loves people and has many friends. She is also independent.
In an interview shortly after her 101st birthday, Frances talked about why at her age she left an assisted living complex to live on her own.
“I didn’t want to be waited on. I was always on my own,” she said, adding that assisted living was expensive.
Frances is one of eight siblings and the only one still living. She grew up in the coal-mining town of Carbondale, Pa., which she remembers as a small, close-knit community where people knew each other and cared for one another. Her parents both came from Sicily, and Italian was what they spoke at home; it was her first language. Meals were a family event where everyone gathered around the table, shared stories, and talked about what they were doing.
In the interview a year ago, she found the meals of her childhood a far cry from the on-the-go meals people have today. She thinks it’s a reason why families break up and young people feel lost.
On Saturday, Frances found herself surrounded by people. She was crowned and sat in her seat, which was decorated with balloons. Gifts were piled on a table beside her.
In his first official act as the Ward 7 Councilman, Steve McAllister read a proclamation celebrating her birthday and highlighting her life.
From Carbondale, Frances moved to New York City, where she ended up working for MetLife, and it was her job with the insurance company that brought her to Rhode Island. At the age of 63, she went back to school to get her GED. Her late husband, Jerome, went to class with her. The couple didn’t have children of their own but adopted a boy from Italy through a Catholic agency, a process that took two years. It was another two years before the adoption was completed and another two before he could become an American citizen.
Frances retired from MetLife at the age of 70.
McAllister remarked on Frances’ ability to venture out and try new things.
Rep. David Bennett joined in the party. He brought the salutations from the House of Representatives and Mayor Scott Avedisian.
Then corks popped. Champagne was poured and glasses were raised in a toast to Frances. A couple of sips of the bubbly – from Italy, no less – was enough for Frances. She was ready for the cake.
The three numeric candles were lit. It was suggested the cake be moved closer to Frances so she wouldn’t have to move.
“She has plenty of wind,” Roseanne said to laughs. And, indeed, she did. In one puff the candles were out and the party continued.