Pezza celebrates 110th birthday with parade, key to the town

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What is the secret to living 110 years?

“The secret is to drink Southern Comfort. Drink that, and it will keep you young,” said Emma Pezza, Johnston’s newest supercentenarian.

Emma has seen a lot since she was born on March 30, 1911. In her lifetime, she’s witnessed two world wars, 20 presidents in office, women gain the right to vote, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, the Great Depression and Great Recession, and the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 pandemics.

“God has been very good to me,” Emma said. “To see this day, what else could I expect? He has been excellent to me.”

Emma has lived her entire life in Johnston. She grew up in the George Waterman Road area near Highland Memorial Park. She then moved to Lafayette Street before settling into her home on Putnam Pike in 1954. She’s been there ever since.

“It feels so good. I have my family here, even the little ones came out,” she said.

Emma has two children, Leonard and Virginia, along with six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.

“I’m so proud of her,” said her son, Leonard. “She’s in good shape and she can tell some great stories.”

To celebrate the milestone, the community came out in droves to social-distance celebrate. A motor parade, led by town police and a fire apparatus, included dozens of cars filled with well-wishers and finished with a backhoe and dump truck draped with a huge “happy birthday” banner.

Local officials also came out for the occasion, including Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena and Police Chief Joseph Razza.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Johnston Police Department, I consider it a great privilege and honor to wish Mrs. Pezza a happy birthday and many more,” Chief Razza said.

Along with a proclamation honoring her life and extending wishes of health happiness, Mayor Polisena presented Emma with the key to the town. Although the mayor said he wanted to give her a “hug and a kiss,” he said he couldn’t due to COVID regulations but would be back to do so on her 111th birthday.

“This is a big day for the town, you really don’t find outstanding citizens like her. This is a generation that basically made this country what it is today with hard work,” Polisena said. “It’s amazing, it really is. She has some longevity in her genes, and she’s a good person.”

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