State's oldest resident will celebrate first birthday on May 20

State's oldest resident will celebrate first birthday on May 20

NORTH PROVIDENCE - For 109 years straight, Lillian Cardullo celebrated her birthday on May 21. The date was as much a part of her as her wedding anniversary or the days her children were born.

This year, for the first time in the life of the state's oldest resident, Cardullo will celebrate her 110th birthday on May 20, an unexpected switch Cardullo says she's still having trouble believing is real.

About six months ago, as Cardullo's son Peter tells it, representatives from Medicaid balked at paying for a medical procedure his mother had done. The birth date given by Cardullo, May 21, was raising a red flag with officials from the federal health program, said her son.

Peter Cardullo says he immediately headed to Providence City Hall in search of his mother's birth certificate. The certificate was there, as expected, but to his shock, the birth date on it said "May 20."

"I don't know what happened," says Cardullo, a resident of the Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence. "I think the nurse made a mistake, but my mom had six kids SLps too many children."

Cardullo became Rhode Island's oldest resident years ago. At this point she may be padding her stats like Cal Ripken Jr. when he went on his unconquerable consecutive game streak.

Cardullo is so old, say her children, that she was alive in the year, 1903, when the Boston Red Sox beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series, Theodore Roosevelt was president, Bob Hope and Lawrence Welk were born, helium was discovered, and the U.S. established a Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

There is certainly a bit of luck involved with living so long, Cardullo concedes, but 110 years is "a long time" no matter how you slice it.

"You have to use your head," she tells others who are looking for her secret to longevity.

The former "floor lady" at the old National Collapsible Tube Corporation in Providence, the city where she grew up, believes that "working hard and eating right" are keys to not only a long life, but a happy and fulfilled one.

"Tell the truth" and "treat others right," she adds, and one will have no regrets when the twilight of their life arrives.

"She hates liars," said Peter, also a North Providence resident.

Her daughter-in-law Jeannette, Peter's wife, fondly remembers the days when Cardullo would "push vegetables" and vegetable products, including escarole juice, on her family.

"She likes the desserts now," said Peter. "She's a real sweet eater."

The food someone picks out in the grocery aisles can make all the difference between a long and healthy life or a short and sickly one, according to Lillian Cardullo.

"The meat had to be good," said her son. "No store brands, and always the top brands."

A life this long is surely filled with great accomplishments. Which is your greatest?

"Making it this long," states Cardullo, without a pause, the hint of a smile on her lips.

Cardullo has lived without her husband for the past 52 years. The elder Peter Cardullo was the love of her life, she says, and she was never tempted to remarry.

Family has always been important to her, said Cardullo, who has two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Her advanced age doesn't allow her to be active like she once was, says Cardullo, but she's been able to keep her mind sharp by playing games like bridge and Scrabble.

Cardullo never made it past the 7th grade, said her children, but she is still one of smartest people they've known. She was even more sharp prior to suffering a stroke in 2007. The smarts came with remarkable strength of body, they said, as she was still cleaning her own house at the age of 104.

On May 20, state and town officials, family, friends and residents of the Golden Crest Nursing Centre are planning a big birthday bash for the matriarch of the Cardullo family.