Wow! Claremonter celebrates birthday number 105
While most of us hope to live a long and healthy life, we rarely think about what that journey could actually entail. For Claremont resident Jean Scaduto Parafiorito, the journey so far has included 105 New Year’s Eve and holiday celebrations, 105 trips around the sun and…and just a few slices of cake.
On June 8, Ms. Parafiorito celebrated her 105th birthday with her family, and a few days later, the festivities moved to the sunny backyard of her daughter’s Claremont home. At the party, the birthday girl received special attention from both family and the city, which presented her with a certificate of recognition honoring her special day.
Speaking with the COURIER, Ms. Parafiorito touched on some of the highlights of her life including traveling across Europe with her best friend, moving from one coast to the other with the love of her life, and her deep passion for making hats.
“I loved making them [hats],” she said.
She was born in 1916 in Sciacca, a small town in Sicily, Italy to Antonino and Margherita Scaduto and became the youngest of 10 children. In 1922, the family of 12 immigrated to the United States and lived in Brooklyn, New York for about 27 years. However, Jean explained that even as a young woman, she was never fond of the city, the weather or its subway system.
“It’s a mess. You get on the train…and people are pushing from the back. One time while I was there, they pushed a lady on the track and then I found out that I knew her, she worked with me. She was killed by the train,” Ms. Parafiorito said. “People just wanted to get on the train, they wanted to get a seat. So they couldn’t have cared less for what they did.”
“I had a sister [Clara] who had problems with one leg. She used to fall all the time in the snow, the icy streets and so she was the one who decided, ‘I’m going to California,’ and I said, ‘I don’t blame you,’” Ms. Parafiorito said.
However, New York wasn’t all bad. She met Anthony Parafiorito and eventually the couple married in 1940. Just nine years later, when Ms. Parafiorito was 33, they traded the hectic, blistering cold of New York for the sunny state of California.
“He got an ‘Ok’ [from the company] and was transferred to California. And I’ve been here ever since. This has been my life here and I would never live in New York again,” Ms. Parafiorito said. “I enjoyed California much more than I ever did New York.”
The couple raised their two children, Carol Berton and Bruce Parafiorito, in Pico Rivera.
As her children grew older and made friends at school and around their block, Ms. Parafiorito became known as the ‘neighborhood mom’ for her kindness to the other children.
“They made us feel so welcome as kids. She never thought we were silly,” said Suzan Messick, one of Ms. Berton’s childhood friends.
“We had a great childhood. When we used to have slumber parties, my mom [Jean] would be in the middle of it,” Carol Berton, Jean’s daughter, said. “She was always part of us.”
Ms. Berton added that she remembered her mother working at a dress shop during her childhood. When their father Anthony passed away in 1969, Jean then went to work at JCPenney when she was 53.
Her son Bruce nicknamed her “Gumby,” because of her resilience—and it’s no stretch. She’s had some falls, one in which she broke her nose but got back up. A few years ago while on her way to the market, she was hit by a car and thrown 25 feet in the air. She even bounced back from contracting COVID-19 last year when she was 104.
After learning so much about Ms. Parafiorito’s life, the COURIER still had one question left to ask—what is her secret to a long and happy life?
“The secret to happiness? To enjoy life, enjoy your friends, be good to them. And if you’re good to them, they’ll be good to you,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of people here when I first came. Working I met several friends. Well, that’s about it I guess.”
As the afternoon slowly faded, family members embraced Ms. Parafiorito and wished her a very happy birthday as they headed home. Before leaving, the family announced that they needed to get back together in 105 years for her 210th birthday.
Jean’s son-in-law, Roger Tschirgi, along with the Parafiorito family, extends their sincerest thanks to the COURIER and the city of Claremont for recognizing Ms. Parafiorito’s landmark birthday.
by Andrew Alonzo | firstname.lastname@example.org