Second childhood comes at 90
Post Independent Staff
If 40 is the new 30, Pearl Antonelli at almost 90 certainly could pass for at least half her age, which would bring her close to 30.
Born Aug. 7, 1915, Antonelli will celebrate her 90th birthday Sunday, making her the most seasoned Antonelli living in the valley. Yet, her active lifestyle and energetic personality hide her age from both those who know her well and those who don’t.
“She’s like in her second childhood,” said great-great-niece Deidre Hiles.
Walking every chance she gets, occasionally hollering at the Rockies on television and maintaining a positive outlook has kept Antonelli alive and well for nearly 90 years.
Antonelli said she never thought she’d see the day when there’d be 90 candles on her birthday cake. She has seen plenty during her life.
Both world wars, the Great Depression and the construction of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Springs span Antonelli’s timeline living in Colorado, but the memories of her family remain most vivid.
She first came to the region in 1929, and moved to Silt with her father and brother. She was only 2 years old when her mother passed away.
Growing up Pearl Bendetti, she kept the house in order and food on the table each day after school while her father and brother were off working in the coal mines.
Then she met Harvey Antonelli. The two married in 1938 and eventually added two children, Edward and Norma Jean, to their family.
For years Pearl’s family tree always seemed to be missing something.
“I thought I’d never have grandkids,” Pearl Antonelli said.
Nine years after her daughter Norma Jean married, Antonelli’s family tree finally filled out. With three granddaughters and one grandson, Antonelli said her grandkids have followed in her footsteps, working hard and living life to the fullest.
Attending every eighth-grade, high school and college graduation, Antonelli made sure her grandkids knew they made her proud. With no high school diploma in her drawer, and no driver’s license in her wallet, Antonelli has managed just fine with the family pictures covering her wall.
“It’s great to have family,” Antonelli said. “If I didn’t have family I’d be in a heck of a predicament.”
Harvey died in 1978, and Antonelli embraced the family she had left, never remarrying.
“I had a good husband,” Antonelli said. “I know what I had but I don’t know what I’d get,” she explained as reason for remaining single.
Every Saturday night, Antonelli meets her friends for church, sitting in the same sanctuary she grew up in. Paying tribute to her brother, a World War II vet, Antonelli also takes her seat every Monday with the other women at the Veterans of Foreign Wars meetings. Somewhere in between, she makes time for bingo, shopping and washing her clothes and linens. And yes, she even flips her own mattress.
At 90 people don’t expect to see Antonelli living life in the fast lane, but anything slower would be unacceptable according to her niece Pat Wright.
“Everybody tells her to slow down,” Wright said. “But the other day she told me, ‘I just get so tired of them telling me to slow down.'”
With four generations of Antonellis beside her, Antonelli gave each of them a strategy in making it to her age.
“Keep going, keep moving and don’t feel sorry for yourself,” she said.
Motivated and driven simply by Antonelli’s presence, Wright called her aunt her connection to the past, while great niece Emily Hiles received inspiration for the future, by celebrating her 40th birthday with her great-aunt just three days before wishing her a happy 90th birthday.
Having no need to make a birthday wish this year, Antonelli she said has everything she’s ever wanted, including a memory sharp enough to prove it.
“If I live to be 100, I’ll remember my 90th birthday,” she said.
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