Feisty and fun-loving at 100

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A surprise birthday party held in the recreation room at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, brought a shower of accolades to centenarian Rose Marcopoto, from some 80 members of the September Club.

“Amazing,” “fun-loving,” “feisty” and “lively,” these estimations of her only seemed to scratch the surface of regard for this woman as well-wishers sidled up to chat with her and posed for pictures on Monday, Feb. 12. She was completely taken in by the surprise because on Mondays, she goes to the church for the weekly senior club meetings.

Rose was born to Francesca and Stefano DiVivo on Feb. 2, 1924. The family lived on 2nd Street, Newark, and Rose attended St. Rose High School, for secretarial studies.

“I applied at a big dental office in Newark,” she said. “I was talking to the dentist and he asked how I’d like to be a dental assistant.”

Seeing the opportunity, she attended school in New York City to become a dental assistant. She worked in this office for five years and then was employed by two dentists/brothers, in Newark. Their surname was Fish.

“That’s where I met my husband,” she said. “He was a patient who came in.”

His name was Anthony and it was Columbus Day. His own dentist, an Italian, had taken the day off. So, he took a chance and went to see Dr. Fish and became a patient.

He was put on a dental plan and it would take about a year to complete the necessary work.

“I always gave the patients something to read,” said Rose. “I gave him Time magazine.”

She chuckled at this because her son Stephen, who attended the party, would work for Time magazine. She has two more children, Angela and Michael.

“We’d talk for a few minutes,” she continued. “He told me later he wanted to ask me out, but not while he was a patient. He didn’t want to have to face me when he came in.”

Nonetheless, after his year of dental work, he asked her out. Rose said it was a quick romance. Their first date was in February 1949, they became engaged that May and married in August.

“And 10 months later, I was rocking the crib,” she said.

They moved to Bloomfield and resided on Fairway Street where Rose still lives and is known as “the matriarch of Fairway.” Anthony, an educator and school administrator, worked at Vailsburg and Arts high schools. He died in 2003.

At the party, Stephen had another surprise for his mother. He went to the podium.

“This club is a big part of my mother’s life,” he said, “and we wanted to make the day right and you people are important, but we invited a special person.”

He then revealed a small audio recorder and turned it on. “Hail to the Chief” blared, the door to the room opened and in walked President Joe Biden wearing his trademark aviator glasses. His dark, tailored suit displayed the mandatory American flag lapel pin. Well, actually, it was not the president. It was Rose’s son, Michael, who looked a lot like Joe Biden.

Playing it for laughs, Michael approached the podium in somnambulist mode, tripped and went to the microphone. He apologized for being late.

“Everyone says I should be on the campaign trail,” Michael said, “but there’s no one more important than you —- the American people and Rose. But Rose, I hear you watch a lot of Fox news.”

Stephen said humor played a big part in family life and pictures of his mother on a nearby bulletin board attested to this. In one, she was dressed as a pope. But there were more reasons for her longevity.

“My mother has deep social commitments,” he said, “and active relationships with four generations of her family. She loves living on Fairview for the demographics instead of a one-dimensional life in a retirement home. She has deep connections to the church and as an Italian, has eaten a Mediterranean diet all her life. She always said, ‘a heavy hand on the olive oil.’ And she’s always moving around. Her motto is, ‘never complain and keep smiling.’”

Then it was time for Rose to speak. She went to the podium.

“Well, here I am,” she said. “I can’t believe I reached 100 and so happy and pleased. I spent 20 years with you guys and I wouldn’t miss one Monday unless I was sick.”