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At 101, Annie Diglio is the East Haven Senior Center’s oldest member, and she’s still active, attending the center twice a week. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The oldest member at the East Haven Senior Center is currently working on her second century. Throughout her 101 years, Annie Diglio has lived through all sorts of changes from the Great Depression to World War II.
Unfortunately, Annie cannot share the secret to her long life.
“Everybody asks me that. I don’t know,” she says. “I wish I knew.”
Annie was born on Nov. 16, 1917. She’s been active with the senior center for 30 years. She goes twice a week, “no matter what kind of weather.”
“We play bingo, play cards with the girls, and have a lot of fun,” Annie says.
But Annie has done lots of other things in her life. Her lifelong love of music led her to pick up the accordion at age 24. But mostly, Annie loves to play games.
“The only things I’ve done for fun is play bingo and play cards,” she says. “I babysat a lot for my grandchildren. I was a built-in babysitter.”
When she was younger, Annie liked to go to casinos and play the slot machines.
“I liked the old way,” she says. “They had the one arm now they’ve got buttons.”
She says she was never a fan of the casino bingo games. At the casinos, the games used more complicated patterns that required focus. She prefers the simpler version played at the senior center because it allows more time to talk.
“I took a couple of trips. I used to take all the women with me in my car,” she says. “I gave everybody [in the neighborhood] a ride and I enjoyed doing it. I was the only driver.”
She would take them to meetings and to church. Sometimes, they’d go farther away to Catholic retreats in places like Farmington or Old Saybrook.
She was involved with many of the guild and societies at her church.
“They used to have dinners,” Annie says. “At one dinner, I was made mother of the year….They just picked me.”
Annie has been something of a traveler many times in her life, going as far as Las Vegas for a wedding and Canada to visit other Catholic retreats.
On one cruise to Bermuda, Annie says, she encountered trouble in the Bermuda Triangle. The ship began to rock back and forth.
“I don’t swim,” she says. “I was scared. That was the one and only cruise I took.”
That scare didn’t ruin the memory, however.
“I liked it,” she says. “Even though I was scared, I liked it.
Annie says she remembers every president since Roosevelt. She lived through the Great Depression.
“Everybody had nothing, but we all used to help one another,” Annie says.
During that time, she was still living with her mother and working at a sewing shop making 12 ½ cents an hour.
“My aunt had a cigar store. We were poor at that time,” Annie says. “My aunt used to give the kids money...because they had no money to pay the bills.”
Four of her brothers volunteered for the armed service in 1942, three to the Navy and one to the Army. One of them was in the Korean War. Another was stationed in Africa.
“I was home, writing letters back and forth,” Annie says. “Thank God they came back.”
Annie married her husband Arthur in 1954 after working for a company that manufactured auto parts. When he got sick with Parkinson’s disease, she went back to work at Edal Industries.
“It was a factory, you’d have to make little things on the machine,” she says. “It was interesting.”
She’s been to two World’s Fairs, once in 1939 and again in 1964 with her son, Art, who was 8. Ford was displaying its new models, like the Mustang, set on rails to be rode around in.
Art got a chance to get behind the wheel of one of the cars.
“He was very young. Because he was a kid, the people were all excited,” Annie recalls.
“I’ve seen it all,” Annie says.
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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