STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Not even a pandemic could stop Camille Petosa from celebrating her 105th birthday on Jan. 7. Although COVID-19 nixed any plans for an in-person birthday party, the Dongan Hills resident was feted by family and friends via a ZOOM party.
Mrs. Petosa was born Camille Marie DiIorio in Kinney, Minn., on Jan. 7, 1916, one of seven children. Although raised in several mining towns on the Masabi Range, she worked in her younger years on her family’s small farm.
According to her daughter, Carmella Petosa, Mrs. Petosa grew up and became an integral part of her family’s farm life. “She was responsible for milking the family cow, feeding the multiple farm animals, and helping to prepare family meals from scratch while attending school,” she said.
These days, she enjoys crocheting needlepoint, embroidery and sewing, which have kept her busy during the quarantine. In earlier years, Mrs. Petosa loved making ceramics, cooking Sunday sauce and homemade spaghetti, and gardening, not to mention tennis, volleyball, swimming, and walking in younger years.
Her secret to living to 105 years young? “Faith in God, hard work while you are able, and a glass of red wine every night at dinner,” she said.
WORKS AT THE PENTAGON, MARRIES MARIO PETOSA
“Her school years included household chores, crocheting, baking pies for newly sworn in American citizens and playing on the school basketball team,” added her daughter Carmella. “Upon her high school graduation, Mrs. Petosa attended Hibbing Junior College.”
Upon completing her course work as an administrative assistant with skills in stenography, she took her newly-acquired skills and applied for a job with the U.S. government, where she was hired by the U.S. Army Air Corps, headquartered in Washington, D.C. There she worked at Bolling Air Field in Maryland and also at Gravelly Point Air Station in the district.
When the Pentagon opened in 1943, she was transferred to the new facility as a clerk/stenographer. During her war time off-hours, Camille volunteered to roll bandages and prepare first aid kits for the Red Cross.
On Jan. 3, 1942, Mrs. Petosa wed her husband, Mario, who was soon shipped off to the Aleutian Islands and then to the Pacific Theater until the end of World War II.
Upon his return to her arms in 1946, the couple relocated to Staten Island, soon buying a home in Dongan Hills, where she still lives, and where the couple raised four children: Mario Petosa Jr., Carmella Petosa, Sonny Petosa, and the late Phyllis Petosa.
ACTIVE IN HER CHURCH
While raising her family and maintaining a household, Mrs. Petosa enjoyed time with fellow parishioners at the Holy Rosary Society of Saint Ann’s parish, where she was in charge of making altar cloths and of altar maintenance. For her generous volunteerism, she was named “Special Rosarian” in 2011 by the Holy Rosary Society for her many years of service to the parish. In fact she is still a member.
“My mom crocheted a tapestry with the Lord’s Prayer for Saint Francis Seminary and also made several alter cloths for St. John’s University Chapel in Jamaica, Queens,” said her daughter, Carmella.
“Her home was always open to the priests at St. Ann’s, especially for her homemade spaghetti, and when they could not attend, she brought dinner to the rectory.”
Always the generous heart, Mrs. Petosa also financially sponsored three children from Africa, Philippines and Thailand through Children’s International, Kansas City, MO.
Her acts of kindness include babysitting when needed, visiting the local nursing home, welcoming new neighbors, hosting an annual garden party, preparing cookies for the parish Christmas party and crocheting Christmas decorations for family and friends.
To this day, Mrs. Petosa’s favorite past time is getting together with her family and friends, especially her grandchildren and great grandchildren.