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‘I enjoyed it all: On 108th birthday, woman shares memories, advice

Irene Detato is a woman of many experiences, from dating in the 1920s and car rides with her family before television was invented to meeting John Wayne.

On Sunday she celebrated her 108th birthday at the Embassy of Loyalsock Township, where she lives, surrounded by family.

When she was younger, Irene wore many hats, moving around the country to take on many jobs.

She worked with General Electric during World War II to inspect bombs.

“It (the work location) was screened from the ceiling down,” she said. “No one could come in. It was very interesting work.”

She said the inspections dealt with targeting systems for bombing.

“If they were off (the inspections), the bombs wouldn’t hit their marks,” she said. “They were very special inspections to make sure it was just perfect. They didn’t want to hit churches or schools; they wanted to hit the factories that were making the bombs to bomb our boys.”

As for meeting John Wayne, Irene and her husband were helping a family run a motel in Arizona. Wayne had parked his helicopter in the front lawn of the motel.

“I told him (my husband) ‘You take care of things, I am going to go up (and take a shower).’ “

When she was up washing her hair, her husband, George, had called her down because Wayne had been in the lobby of the hotel.

“When I came down, I was soaking wet with my hair … but he (Wayne) was so nice to talk to. We used to kid a lot,” Irene said.

Her granddaughter, Theresa Detato, said that Irene told Wayne that she “wouldn’t give him special treatment.”

In school, Irene was very active.

“I played basketball, I was active in dramatics. … I was busy all of the time,” she said. “I had to be in everything that came along.”

As a youngster, she would go on car rides with her dad, who had taught her to tap dance, as well as participate in plays and school sports.

Theresa joked with her grandmother about dating in the 1920s.

“If I would go to the boys (sports) games, there was always someone that wanted to walk me home,” she said. “I didn’t consider them boyfriends, only friends.”

When her and her husband were dating, he had lived about 25 miles north of where Irene and her family were living.

“Nobody knew who he was,” she said. “My father had a fit because he didn’t want me going out.”

Her immediate family, which consisted of Irene, her mother, father, brother and their dog, Buster, were as close as could be.

She reminisced about many stories but one stuck out to her — her mother’s pie and canning.

“You name it, she had it in what she called her ‘fruit-cellar,’ “ Irene said. “My mother was a good pie baker. I would watch every move and do everything the same.”

But it never turned out as good as her mother’s, she said.

On her birthday, Irene had one wish: to have a hot dog with onions and ketchup, cherry pie and a root beer. That wish was granted while she was surrounded by her loved ones at the Embassy.

“That meant more to me than a big splendid party,” she said. “I love every one of them.”

When asked what her secret to living life was she remained tight-lipped, but she did have advice for readers: “I lived a calm life with a loving family. I enjoyed it all. Be content with what you have. We are all talented in something. … We have our own ways of doing things that no one else has. I just enjoyed what I had and did the best I could. Be yourself and do your best.”

As far as her family knows, Irene is the oldest person at the Embassy and they also believe she may be the oldest in the county.

Do you know of anyone older? Let us know by calling 570-326-1551.

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