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May 6, 2014

The big 100: Roseville woman becomes centenarian

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

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Susan Berardinelli receives a plaque from Roseville Mayor John Chirkun during the City Council meeting April 22 — her 100th birthday.

ROSEVILLE — The world has changed substantially in the past century, and a Roseville woman has been there to see it all.

Susan Berardinelli celebrated her 100th birthday April 22 and received proclamations commemorating the day from both the city of Roseville and from the state of Michigan in a short ceremony as the City Council — and her granddaughter, Councilwoman Colleen McCartney — looked on.

Berardinelli did not start in Roseville, however. Born in 1914, she said she was born in Italy and emigrated to the U.S. with her family, landing at Ellis Island in New York.

“We came over when I was five,” Berardinelli said. “We lived in Gallitzin (Pennsylvania).”

While her father fought for the U.S. in World War I, Berardinelli and the rest of her family were living in the small coal-mining town. It was there that she met her future husband, Edward, and eventually married him in December 1932. The two of them left around 1933-34 for Detroit, where Edward got a job with U.S. Rubber Co., said Berardinelli’s daughter, Fran Kelly.

“He built tires there for a long time,” Kelly said. “He had the opportunity to open a restaurant with my mom’s brother in Greenville, South Carolina. That was in 1954, when they moved.”

Prior to moving, they did enjoy their time in Detroit. Kelly said they used to take the streetcar down Gratiot Avenue to downtown, where they could shop at the Hudson’s store. Additionally, when they first came to Detroit, they had friendly neighbors — Kelly said there was a couple living in the apartment above them that would come over to play cards regularly.

Nevertheless, they moved, and Berardinelli said she enjoyed their time down south, meeting the folks who stopped in.

“When we had the restaurant and I was a waitress, I met a lot of nice people,” she said. “We lived there on Washington Street, and I just enjoyed the people who came in.”

After her husband’s death in 1963, Berardinelli moved in with Kelly and her family, eventually heading back to Michigan and settling in Roseville for better work opportunities.

Berardinelli worked for several years at the Deacon Jones restaurant in Eastpointe, as well as a few others, as a waitress before eventually deciding to retire from the working world to spend her time with her family.

Over the years, she has had four children, 14 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, and 16 great-great-grandchildren. Kelly said even today, they try to gather up as many people as possible a few times a month for a homemade spaghetti dinner, though these days, Berardinelli does not do much of the cooking.

Berardinelli said she also avidly follows the Detroit Pistons basketball team, even going to a game a week before her birthday. Kelly said that she and her sister played basketball in high school, and her mother seemed to develop a love of the game from watching her kids play the sport.

Berardinelli also used to crochet and work on jigsaw puzzles. Currently, she enjoys quiz shows on television, sitting on the porch on nice days with a glass of wine to socialize with neighbors, spending time with her dog, Luna, and occasionally heading downtown to gamble with family members.

“My husband and I will take her out to the casino once in a while,” McCartney said. “She’s a wonderful lady, and we’re blessed to have her with us for 100 hopefully plus-plus years.”

“As a youngster, all of us kids, she was always there when we came home from school, and was just very involved in our lives,” she added.

Berardinelli said she has never returned to Italy, instead staying in the U.S. since coming here due to seasickness.

“I had the chance to go, but my mother had my passport, and I didn’t have one (on me), so my brother went and I didn’t get to,” Berardinelli said. “I’m glad I didn’t because I’d be sick — I’d have had to go by boat.”

She said the area changed over the years she’s lived here, even beyond the loss of Hudson’s and the streetcars. Kelly and Berardinelli recalled when Frazho was a small local road before the interstate came in, when Costco was a junior high school, and when Roseville had a small airport.

Longevity runs in Berardinelli’s family — her own mother lived to be 96 — but based on her own life experiences, she suggested that people try to drink a glass of red wine a day and to enjoy their family.

“Just live with a happy family,” she said, before turning to Kelly. “You’re the one that makes me live great.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.