LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- She might have celebrated her 98th and 99th birthdays with a good burger and some harmless flirtation at Hooters, but for her 100th, Mary Fabian enjoyed a low-key afternoon of homespun love set to Rosemary Clooney and Fred Astaire.
More than two dozen family members came from South Jersey, Maryland and California to Trattoria Il Cafone in Lyndhurst on Aug. 1 to share memories with a woman who spent most of a century putting others' need ahead of her own.
As a teenager during The Great Depression, Fabian turned over her paychecks from the silk mills in Paterson to help her parents.
Married to the late Martin Fabian for 70 years, she cared for his elderly parents and raised three children while he was on extended absences working as a carpenter in Pennsylvania.
The house had an open-door policy: The Fabians were first on their block to share a television with neighbors and brought people in for annual holiday parties with a lavishly decorated Christmas tree.
Fabian has dementia but keeps going strong by stretching, helping her daughter, Diane Smith, cut vegetables in the kitchen and singing along to classical music. Her only complaint, really, is about shabby fashions. And she doesn’t see why she should still take vitamins.
“One time, she hid them in a tea cup in the cabinet when her aide, Lee, wasn’t looking," her daughter said. "I found them and said, 'What are you doing?!”
Fabian has always been accepting and inclusive, even with relatives who have alternative lifestyles, Smith said.
“She never wanted to say anything (mean) about anyone," she said. "That is her philosophy, and that’s how she lives.”
This year's birthday bash featured a cake with a portrait of Fabian, along with some warm, heartfelt singing.
Surrounding the smiling centenarian, sharing photos taken through the years, were her daughter and son-in-law, Dewey Smith; sons Bobby and wife Pat and Marty and significant other Betty; granddaughter Deirdre Fabian and 1-year-old great-granddaughter Kaylie.
“Last year, we had a party with 99 red balloons,” her granddaughter said. "We’re lucky to have her around. Now it’s her turn to relax.”
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