One of Vivian DeStefano’s fondest memories is of Frank Sinatra’s wedding to Nancy Barbato in 1939. The 105-year-old loves to tell the story, from the comfort of her home in Long Branch, to her VNACJ hospice care team. And her team loves to listen.
Born and raised in Jersey City, Vivian and her family were good friends with the Barbatos. When Sinatra was dating Nancy, the two frequently came for Sunday dinner. Talking about the good time they all shared at the wedding brings on a great smile. “I am in awe of Viv. I just love her,” says Hospice Volunteer Diane Vigilante, part of the care team that also includes a hospice nurse, chaplain and social worker. “I find articles about things that I know she likes, and I have educated myself…about growing up in Jersey City.”
With the help of a live-in health aide, Vivian is managing congestive heart failure. After she was hospitalized for two weeks following a minor stroke, the hospital suggested home hospice care, and the VNACJ team was quickly assembled. For Vivian, this meant a whole new audience for her stories.
Sinatra is just one subject in a wealth of stories Vivian shared. She traveled extensively, and once encountered Pope Pius XII while visiting the Vatican. Another time, in 1956, she chaperoned Smith College students on a two-month, nine-country tour across Europe. And closer to home, she liked to visit Atlantic City and happily recalls the time she won nearly $3,000.
Vivian helped to raise seven nieces and nephews, all of whom visit her often. When she turned 100, they threw her a large birthday bash at which the mayor of Long Branch issued a proclamation declaring July 28th “Vivian DeStefano Day.” Now, five years later, Vivian is still enjoying life. Her secret to longevity and good health is quite simple: “Treat people the way you want to be treated. That’s all you have to do.”
This story originally appeared in our latest issue of House Calls. Click Here to download the issue