Carmella Nardolillo doesn’t want much fuss today.
Maybe a little ice cream – she enjoys that. And some birthday cake – but only if it’s homemade, as that’s what she likes best. She’s also looking forward to breakfast – she’ll probably get rye toast and an egg – with 28 family members and friends at a suburban pancake restaurant.
After all, you only turn 108 once.
“You lead a good life,” said Nardolillo, her eyes twinkling, “when you are young, you work hard – God pays you back.”
Nardolillo has spent the past week getting ready for her birthday.
“I feel like a million dollars,” said the Orchard Park woman, clad on an afternoon this week in a ruffled cobalt cardigan and white slacks, her feet warm in striped socks and hot pink slippers.
Those preparations included attention to her silvery white hair – and a splurge on a manicure.
“She had to have her nails done,” said Rosanne Lucci, one of Nardolillo’s four children.
“I like nice nails,” agreed Nardolillo, gazing at the bright red color on her fingertips.
Nardolillo was the subject of a story in The Buffalo News last year, when she turned 107. In the year since then, Nardolillo has seen a few changes in her life – but not many. She still takes no medications – a fact she is proud of, joking with her children that she takes fewer medicines than they do.
“I get aches and pains,” Nardolillo said. “I keep it to myself.”
She gets out regularly, to the casinos and for fish fries and crab legs – and, on one recent evening, for chicken wings at a local bar and restaurant.
“She ate four, five chicken wings,” said Lucci, 85, of her mother.
Nardolillo doesn’t cook as much as she used to, these days; she no longer makes her homemade soup, family members said. But Nardolillo said she likes to have a small glass of wine or “cordial” in the evenings, when she can.
“I’ve got to have my wine or my cordial,” Nardolillo said, laughing. “But they’re the small bottles, not the big ones,” she joked.
The biggest change to Nardolillo’s life has been in her living arrangements, as she moved within the past year into the home of one of her family members.
“I like being alone in my own house,” Nardolillo said.
“She’s very independent,” said Lucci.
Nardolillo was born in 1906. She started life in New Jersey, as Carmella Dettelis, and came to Buffalo as a young girl with her family. Her education lasted through the third grade, before she had to leave school to work and help her parents.
She married Michael Nardolillo, who worked for the railroads for many years, in 1924. Their marriage lasted 55 years, until his death in 1979.
Nardolillo worked a lot over the years to help support her family, including on a farm and in Sattler’s department store.
“She always took care of her kids,” said her son, Frank Nardolillo, 82. “Her kids came first.”
Nardolillo has four children – they range in age from 80 to 89 – as well as 17 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren, and 12 great-great-grandchildren.
After her breakfast with her extended family, Nardolillo hopes to pay a visit to a local casino on her birthday. She’ll wrap up the day with a family dinner – maybe pizza and wings – and celebratory cake and ice cream, her family said.
Nardolillo said her advice on living a long life is simple.
“Work hard,” she said. “Be respectable.”
“And lead a good, clean life.”
Call them words to live by. Who could argue?