In 1917 Albert Einstein published his first paper on cosmology, Houdini performed his buried alive escape, Al Capone became known as Scarface after a knife fight and Theresa LaRosa was born.
This weekend, the Grove woman will celebrate her 100th birthday – first with a large party on Saturday at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, and second, she’ll celebrate her official birthday on Sunday.
The birthday celebration, for upwards of 80 friends and family, will come complete with homemade manicotti, meatballs, Italian sausage and of course, Italian cookies.
Not bad for someone who jokes her secret to long life is eating lots and lots of pasta – specifically macaroni with red sauce.
Born on April 23, 1917 in Sturgis, Michigan, LaRosa is the “fourth to the oldest” of 13 children raised by Mary and Frank Albano.
LaRosa spent her early years in Michigan before the family moved to Pennsylvania.
A need for a job left her working, rather than finishing high school. Over the past 10 decades, LaRosa’s careers have varied.
She has worked drawing lines on china at the Shenango China Company in New Castle, Pennsylvania, cleaned houses for others, made clothing as a seamstress, and even worked in a candy factory in Chicago, Illinois, where she was required to wrap candy bars.
“I didn’t eat that much,” she said with a grin.
But in 1942, while working in a grocery store in New Castle, Pennsylvania, LaRosa met her future husband, Michael,.
It was during World War II, and the couple wed before Michael LaRosa left to serve in the U.S. Army.
The couple lived in Pennsylvania most of their adult lives, raising one daughter, Linda.
When her daughter and son-in-law, John Mash moved to Wichita in 1980, LaRosa and her husband soon followed.
LaRosa worked for more than 15 years as a cashier in the family’s Western Sizzlin’ Restaurant.
An avid bingo player for years, LaRosa could often be found at the Moose Club in Wichita playing her favorite game.
Her son-in-law jokes she was so good at winning that often people would leave rather than compete with her.
“She always told people that’s why she won, because she gave it away,” John Mash said.
Five years ago, after spending many weekends on Grand Lake, LaRosa moved to live in Grove full-time with her daughter and son-in-law.
She now spends her days reading mysteries, watching television and watching the water from the family’s balcony. Occasionally she will venture out to play the slots at one of the area casinos.
On Saturday, family will arrive from Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Carolina to celebrate LaRosa reaching the century mark.
In addition to her two grandsons and four great-grandchildren, more than three generations of nieces and nephews will be in attendance.
Members of the Centenarian Club of Oklahoma will be on hand to present her with a “Golden Okie” pin.
Those gathered will also celebrate her can-do spirit.
“She hated quitters,” Linda Mash said. “She always said quitters never win. You’ve always got to keep trying.”