Rosaria Iola Esposito, of Holland, Bucks County, a retired tailor whose family emigrated from Sicily and who lived to be 111 years old, died Wednesday, May 2, of dementia at Pickering Manor Home in Newtown.
Mrs. Esposito said the secret of her long life was faith, family, friends, and doing everything in moderation. She lived alone in Connecticut until age 100, when she moved in with her daughter, Dolores Uphoff, in Bucks County.
Known as “Rosalie,” Mrs. Esposito was one of Pennsylvania’s oldest residents. Her death certificate listed her date of birth as Feb. 11, 1907. The state’s oldest resident, Delphine Gibson, is 114, said Robert D. Young, director of the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) in California.
The group keeps records of Americans who lived at least 110 years, known as supercentenarians. Mrs. Esposito was not yet on the list, but soon could be once her vital statistics are confirmed, Young said.
Mrs. Esposito was born in Ansonia, 12 miles northwest of New Haven, Conn. As a teenager, she moved with her family to New Haven.
Mrs. Esposito attended public school through the eighth grade. The teachers changed her name from Rosaria to Rosalie to make it sound more American, Uphoff remembers her mother saying.
In 1933, she married Joseph P. Esposito, a tool and die maker. The couple had two children. He died in 1979.
Mrs. Esposito worked as a tailor in two men’s apparel stores near Yale University in New Haven, Enson’s and Fenn-Feinstein.
“Many of her clients were Yale professors,” said her daughter, who is 81. “She was in demand.”
Mrs. Esposito worked with many whose families had recently come to the United States from Europe. She spoke Italian, Polish, Yiddish and English, her daughter said.
“She made a lot of friends that she kept in touch with for many years,” her daughter said. “They are all gone now.”
Apart from work, her primary interest was family. Mrs. Esposito was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader. She enjoyed attending New York’s operas and Broadway shows, and loved to sing and dance.
In East Haven, where the couple lived, Mrs. Esposito and her husband became members of St. Vincent de Paul Church, where she joined the Columbiettes, a Catholic women’s organization, and the church’s Women’s Guild.
Mrs. Esposito was known for being upbeat. “She accepted at all times whatever situation came along,” her daughter said.
At age 100, Mrs. Esposito moved in with her daughter, who took care of her for eight years. In 2015, when Uphoff was facing surgery, Mrs. Esposito moved to Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart D’Youville Manor in Yardley, and later to Pickering Manor Home, where Uphoff visited daily.
In her final decade, Mrs. Esposito attended Mass at St. Bede the Venerable Church in Holland. The church’s pastor, Msgr. John C. Marine, said her deep faith and broad smile made parishioners want to know her. She was a steady, inspiring presence at Mass.
“Here she was, 100 years old. She would have had any excuse in the world not to come to church,” Marine said. “She came out in the worst weather. I’d say, ‘Rosie, what are you doing here?’
“I’m here for God,” the pastor said she replied.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son, Paul J.; two grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
Services were Monday, May 7. Burial will be in Connecticut.
Donations may be made to St. Bede the Venerable Church, 1071 Holland Rd., Holland, Pa. 18966, or to Pickering Manor Home, 226 N. Lincoln Ave., Newtown, Pa. 18940.