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Menmonee Falls woman, at 107, has seen a wealth of history

May 12, 2014

Menomonee Falls — She was five when the Titanic sank. Two years later, she witnessed the beginning of World War I. Four states have joined the union in her lifetime. And on May 10, she turned 107 years old, becoming the oldest living resident on record at Menomonee Falls Health Care Center.

They celebrated her life with a special party at the center on May 11, when staff and family members alike spoke of her fondly.

"She is just the sweetest little grandma you'll ever meet," said Carol Gurgel, who has worked at the center for almost 24 years. "She has gotten a little more challenging to understand as time goes on, but you always know she cares and enjoys where she is at in life."

A resident of the center since 2006, Antonia Rosa used to spend a lot of time sharing stories of her life with fellow residents and staff.

Born in Humanco, Puerto Rico, in 1907, Rosa came to the United States at the age of 16 and began her lifelong career as a seamstress shortly thereafter. During World War II, her factory was converted to fabricating 20 mm cannon shells, an effort which her son Jim Rosa said she always took pride in.

"I still hold onto a shell she made that she gave me a long time ago," he said.

Gifts were at a premium when he was an only child growing up during the depression, but he said that never stopped her from giving him everything she could in life.

"She was always there for me," he said, of his mother, who was married for 70 years to Candido before he passed away in 1998. In 1978, the couple moved to Menomonee Falls, where they enjoyed taking long walks together and cheering on their favorite team: the New York Yankees.

"They lived and died by the outcome of those games," Jim said, with a smirk.

Watching games has gotten challenging for her as she suffers from macular degeneration, but Gurgel said she still has a lust for life like no other. In response to a story Jim shared about the heart attack that at age 99 almost claimed her life, Gurgel laughed.

"It's because of all that good in her," she said.

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