Celebrating My Grandma 100 Years After Her Birth

If still alive, my grandma would have turned 100 today. Fifteen years ago, I would have placed money on her reaching the century club. But things happen and she passed away in 2006.

My hypothetical bet is not the biggest loser, however. Rather, it is all the people, both those who she had met and those she would have met, who would have gained a lot from having her around those 11 extra years. She was an amazing lady.

Before my grandma was an “amazing lady” she was just a girl. Here is a photo from her earlier years.

I know most of us idolized our grandparents. I know most of us first came to grips with the fact of death when our grandparents passed. I know most of us look back with a great sense of nostalgia at our grandmothers and grandfathers. So I don’t want to romanticize my grandma’s life because I know I would probably get eye rolls. However, I do want to just point out a couple things about Virginia Fazzari.

My grandma holding me when I was born.

A strong, Italian woman, my grandma grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. She married my grandpa right before he went overseas for World War II. During the war, my grandpa would consistently send letters and money back to his new wife. When he finally returned from the service almost four years later, my grandma said she could barely recognize him…he had lost most of his hair. But with the money my grandpa had sent home, they had enough to build their own house.

From that point on, my grandpa joined my great grandpa in the restaurant business. They owned a successful Italian restaurant in downtown Walla Walla. My grandma would help out at the business but throughout her life she spent majority of her time at home raising a family. She was a proud mother to two boys and three girls. My own mom was the youngest; my grandma gave birth to her when she was 40, a medical feat at the time.

Once the kids were out of the house, my grandparents spent time traveling the country/world when my grandpa could step away from the Pastime for a few days. As they got older, my grandma spent a lot of her time sitting in her favorite recliner reading books, gazing out the big window in her living room. However, no matter if she was in the middle of the best page turner ever, her first priority was always her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

My grandma was a quiet woman. She didn’t say much, but when she did everyone listened. I learned from her that in life your credibility isn’t enhanced by being the loudest person in the room. The wise use words only when necessary.

My grandma was a God-fearing woman. Completely devoted to her faith, she was deeply involved with the church and was probably the best Catholic role model I knew. Again, it wasn’t about her being loud and boisterous about her beliefs, it was her demeanor and actions that established her as a true disciple of Christ. It was inspiring.

My grandma and I before we went to the church for my First Communion. My grandma was a strong disciple of God.

My grandma was a giving woman. She spoiled us grandchildren rotten but she helped the downtrodden as well. With my grandpa, the two of them spent their lives practicing generosity.

A photo of us three kids with grandma and grandpa. They spoiled us rotten.

My grandma was a loyal woman. Married to my grandpa for 60 years, they served as a great example to my parents who in turn served as a great example to Sidney and me. But she didn’t just stick by my grandpa. She was there for all of her children, grandchildren, friends, other relatives, etc. through thick and thin. She didn’t hold grudges and would welcome anyone over for Sunday dinner.

A newspaper clipping from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin announcing my grandparents’ 60th anniversary.

Finally, my grandma was a STRONG woman. God tested her. She went through a long stage where the doctors said she and my grandpa wouldn’t be able to conceive. She suffered through the agony of her middle daughter suddenly coming down with a mysterious illness and passing away. She watched as her oldest daughter became confined to a wheelchair because of Multiple Sclerosis. She battled cancer. She went through the unthinkable parental nightmare of burying a second child when her daughter with MS eventually passed away. She watched her husband of 60 years go in for a pacemaker only to return not fully the same, dying shortly thereafter.

My grandma was strong with several hardships. Before she passed away, my mom was the only daughter she had left (my mom is in the black and my sister is in the jacket).

But as the Book of Job tells us, God does test the just with suffering. However, like Job, my grandma responded to it bravely. She kept herself together in order to bring comfort to others. In fact, I only saw her cry once. It was when they closed the casket prior to taking my Aunt Becky (the oldest daughter) from the funeral home to the church for her funeral mass. I understood true sadness at that moment. My grandma was a rock.

But believe me, when I think of my grandma I don’t think of sadness. Rather, I think of a woman who was quiet, yet really funny; a lover of books, yet always open to watch a comedy that we picked out; a health nut in her later years, yet the best cook I have ever known. I think of one of the finest human beings I have ever known. Many others will say the same thing.

Happy Birthday, Grandma! I am so happy I got to be with you on earth for 19 years. Cant wait to see you again one day. Don’t Blink.

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