It was the early 20th Century when Ann Nicosia came into the world on August 15, 1915.
“That was my name,” said Ann. “Not now,” she added.
I met Ann DiSilvestro Saturday morning, August 15, 2020 on the patio outside the Loveland home of her daughter and son-in-law K and Ray Buckler where she currently resides. She was having her hair cut and styled in preparation for her birthday celebration. We began talking while stylist Greg Stevens finished styling her hair.It took her a minute, but she still remembered her first husband was John “Andy” Anderson who died while she was young. He was father to their only child Catherine, who we know in Loveland as K Buckler.
DiSilvestro was the name of her second husband, Chuck DiSilvestro. Okay, got it? Think it’s confusing for us, imagine Ann trying to recall at age 105.
“Nicosia, Anderson, DiSilvestro,” she recited, before asking: “How many did I have? I’m an old lady, that’s all I know.”
Not too old to celebrate 105 years though. Sure, her memory has faded. She needed to be reminded it was her birthday. But she was ready with an answer when asked what she was going to do on her birthday.
“Kick up my heels I guess,” Ann said.
For the last several years, she kicked up her heels with a trip to the local casino. She didn’t know it while we were talking out on the patio, but her daughter K, son-in-law Ray, and granddaughter Marjorie planned to take her to the casino again Saturday. Ann said she didn’t know where she wanted to go, but responded quickly when I asked if she liked going to the casino.
“Yeah, I like to go to the casino,” she said.
“She’ll get money to play the slot machines,” said K. “Then, on the way out we put her birthday money, all those years, on the Roulette Wheel, and she wins.”
The birthday money is a dollar for each year. “How old am I” interjected Ann when K was explaining how much money they would play on the Roulette Wheel this year. They put the money on black and watch. She only plays once, but once has been enough to win each year since she was 102. When asked what color she likes to play, red or black? Her response was “white.” It gave us all a good laugh. Sadly, the roll on the Roulette Wheel did not pay off for Ann this year.
“What’s with the birthday,” Ann asked. “Why is everybody looking?”
Ann was the youngest of five siblings in the Nicosia family. Her oldest brother was born in Italy before the family immigrated to the United States. They lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when she was born three years before the flu pandemic of 1918 – 102 years ago. Think about that! She was only three years old and has no real memory of it. At 105 years old, imagine the memories she has stored away, the sights she’s seen, the history Ann DiSilvestro lived.
“I remember there was a war, yeah,” said Ann. “World War II, yeah.”
Ann already celebrated her third birthday when World War I ended. In 1931, at the height of the Depression, she was a 16 year-old girl working in a Chicago drugstore serving chocolate shakes to the man who delivered the Chicago Daily News. His name was John “Andy” Anderson and he was 32 years old. They married despite the protests of her mother who had somebody else in mind for her.
“She did not want the marriage to take place although she went with them,” said K.
Ann’s mother wanted her to marry a man who was “connected” and lived nearby. For three months Ann stayed at home with her mother and father, only going out with her husband to the movies. He went home every night without his young bride. Finally, John Anderson told Ann enough was enough.
“Her mother gave in,” K said. “The three of them went out, took a ride, came back and told her father they just got married. It was okay with him. He didn’t have a problem with it. So, they got married in March and it was June before they could live together.”
“I did marry him,” Ann said. “And then I had my daughter K. He’s gone though.”
World War II helped bring an end to the Depression. John passed away when Ann was young. She went to work at a school in Chicago while raising K. They were living in Chicago during Prohibition and the days of gangsters like Al Capone. She’s seen a lot; horse-drawn carriages, the invention of the automobile, silent films, talkies, radio and television were all brand-new during her lifetime. She remembers very little.
“I don’t remember much,” she said. “I’m a hundred and five.”
That comment immediately begged the obvious question. What is your secret to being 105?
“Ask the Good Lord, I don’t know,” said Ann. “Just let me live cause I’m good. I’m a good person.”
She must be doing something right. She has survived the passing of both her husbands. Her apartment was completely destroyed during the 1998 tornadoes that swept through Blue Ash and Montgomery. The bed Ann was sleeping in just moments before was found up the street. She covered herself with towels and laid down in the bathtub. Somehow, she survived. Her granddaughter Marjorie Wilson recalled a different reason for her grandmother’s longevity.
“She used to say the reason she lived so long was because she would have a glass of wine with dinner every night,” said Wilson.
Ann used to drink a glass of White Zinfandel with dinner. Ann denies it today. It doesn’t matter; she does not drink wine anymore. The family makes sure she drinks plenty of water. Wine may not have been in the celebration plan, but dinner was in the plans. Ann needed a reminder of the special occasion.
“Why am I going to go out and have dinner,” she asked. “I don’t know what’s going on. Wherever they take me, I go.”
And so it was they took Ann to Tony’s for her 105th birthday dinner with members of the whole family. Aside from her daughter K, she has 4 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren and one more on the way. Not all were able to join in the dinner celebration. Tony’s was the logical choice since steak is one of her two favorite things to eat. Spaghetti is the other. Tony’s served up a special birthday dessert to finish off a day of kicking up her heels.
“It makes no difference to me if I’m 100 or 105, or 200 as long as I know what I’m doing and as long as I behave,” Ann said. “She (Daughter K) will tell me if I’m not behaving.”
It was a risk Ann was willing to take to go out and kick up her heels at 105.
Happy Birthday Ann! Thanks for sharing your story with Loveland Beacon.