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101-year-old seamstress continues to help community

December 15, 2018

WESTWOOD, N.J. (AP) — What’s the age limit on giving back? If you ask one centenarian, she’ll say there is none.

Anna Gizzi, who turned 101 this month, has been sewing blankets and hats for children at hospitals for years, most recently for the Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern.

Sewing is in Gizzi’s blood: She was born in Jersey City in 1917 to a mother who was a seamstress. After high school, she joined her mother on the job, and eventually worked in New York City’s Garment District. She said she sewed dresses for “Calvin Klein before he became Calvin Klein” during her time there.

In addition to sewing, Gizzi has a love of crocheting, knitting, quilting and embroidery. Pieces of Anna’s creativity can be found all over her apartment in the Westwood House, from a neatly knitted yellow blanket draped over her couch, to a drawing of a clown, framed on her wall, that she made for her daughter Mary in 1949 to fit with a circus-themed bedroom.

Gizzi - who lived in Norwood before moving to the Westwood House, an apartment complex for seniors, 30 years ago - would also help out neighbors whenever they needed clothes altered. The skill rubbed off on her son, Joe Gizzi, who also learned how to sew.

“I took after her, and it’s good that I did,” said Joe Gizzi. “If you wanted something done, you do it yourself.”

Although she enjoys making handmade items for everyone she comes across, including her family and her nurse, Crystle, her true joy is making blankets and hats for children in hospitals.

She’s made hundreds of items for hospitals over the years, and although it takes a couple of hours to complete each hat or blanket, Gizzi does it with a smile.

Anna didn’t just inherit a love of sewing from her mother; she also apparently inherited her longevity. Marie, who was healthy right up until her death, lived to 107, said Joe Gizzi.

This week, friends and family poured into her apartment to wish her well on her birthday, with hugs and smiles of their own. Clutching a vase of flowers in her hand, Anna said she was grateful that so many people were around to celebrate another milestone with her.

“I was so surprised,” she said. “Everyone’s so good to me.”

What’s the secret to living such a long life? Joe believe it’s that his mother always let out her feelings instead of holding them instead and letting them fester.

“I talk too much,” said Anna.

Gizzi can continue living in the Westwood House thanks to the PALS (Portable Assisted Living Services) Program, which provides assisted-living services to seniors with a subsidized income who do not want to go to a nursing home.

Elizabeth Davis, a social worker and executive director of the Geriatric Services Inc., a non-profit that manages the program, said such services give seniors the ability to remain in their communities and serve others.

“I think people need to feel a sense of connection to their community,” said Davis. “I think people like to be able to contribute. We all know we won’t be around forever, so we like to feel we are leaving something behind whenever we go. We want to feel we made a impact.”

Geriatric Services Inc. also helps run the Age-Friendly Teaneck Project, a community-wide effort with a mission of helping Teaneck residents age in place, Davis said.

Many board members on the Age-Friendly Project task force are in their late 80s and early 90s, and are instrumental in helping transport seniors to various places, including to volunteer organizations.

Whether it’s mentoring young people, or attending planning board meetings to ensure developers are keeping elderly residents in mind while proposing new developments, their efforts benefits a wide range of people, Davis said.

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Online:

https://njersy.co/2BiSysv

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Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com

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