NJ woman gets drive-by parade for 109th birthday

LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — A New Jersey woman enjoyed her 109th birthday in style Sunday.

Mary Ruggieri Leonardi’s birthday is actually Monday, but a caravan of cars drove by the Seacrest Village assisted living facility in Little Egg Harbor to celebrate her day, WPVI reported.

“I don’t believe this is happening,” Leonardi told the television station. “It’s like a dream.”

Little Egg Harbor Township Mayor Barbara Jo Crea, issued a proclamation in Leonardi’s honor and Sunday was officially Mary R. Leonardi Day, WPVI reported.

Leonardi, who was born July 27, 1911, survived the H1N1 pandemic in 1918 and has not been affected by this year’s coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Leonardi and her family had a scare in February when she fell ill with a respiratory condition and needed a ventilator.

“I felt like the end was coming, but it didn’t,” Leonardi told WPVI. “I guess nobody wants me yet.”

Leonardi’s youngest daughter, Rosemary Hirsekorn, 71, applied to become an activities assistant at Seacrest Village so that she could work near her mother.

On Sunday, family, friends and neighbors drove by to wish her a happy birthday. Leonardi had three children, and her family has expanded to five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Leonardi said she enjoys Mummers bands, jazz music and Italian food. Her formula for longevity is simple.

“Keep clean, stay healthy, keep out of trouble, and be nice to your neighbors,” Leonardi told WPVI.

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