SOUTH OGDEN — Carmela Durbano remembers everyone clearing the way so she could have a front row seat for the Pioneer Days Parade.
After all, it is her birthday.
So for this year’s Pioneer Day event — as she celebrated her 100th birthday — she was feeling like a true pioneer.
“I used to always think it was all for me,” Carmela said with a big smile from her assisted living center in South Ogden.
“You won’t be able to tell it’s her when you come to see her. She does not look 100 years old,” said Tiffany Shisler, Mountainside Assisted Living Center Marketing Director. “She can walk and talk right with you.”
Many others agree.
“People have always thought she was my mother, not my grandmother. She has always looked so young and beautiful,” said Carmela’s granddaughter-in-law, Linda Kay Durbano.
Linda said she has never thought of Carmela as an in-law because Carmela welcomed her into the family with open arms, as one of her own.
“She has been an amazing influence on my life and she leaves a legacy every day,” Linda said as she put her arm around Carmela.
Carmela laughed and smiled as she talked about her family and what she considers as the best part of her 100 years.
Carmela has had three sons, 16 grandchildren, 47 great-grandchildren and 22 great-great-grandchildren.
“I have so many grandchildren,” she said as she held up a bright yellow card that one of her granddaughters made for her birthday.
She proudly displayed the card for everyone to look at along with the well wishes she received from President Barack Obama and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. She proudly kept them on her walker as she strolled around the assisted living center Monday afternoon. As she talked of her life many passed by and gave her well wishes and said hello.
Friendship has been another key to making Carmela’s life good and happy, she said. But the biggest secret to her longevity?
“Well, it’s been hard work that’s all I can think of,” she said.
She has lived in the Roy area most of her life and worked a farm with her husband and three sons. She loved the work, but it was hard.
“I think the best part was when we turned out the lights and went to bed,” she said with a wink.
She loved enjoying the fruits of her labors with her family with the fresh fruits and vegetables they grew.
Carmela has been a widow since 1972. That’s when her husband passed away from cancer. But that did not slow her down at all, said her son Vic Durbano.
Both he and Linda said Carmela always kept busy with many hobbies, from bowling to crocheting to playing cards. She played cards with the same 12 ladies for many years.
“There’s only four of us left now and we pretty much all live here,” she said of the assisted living center.
Vic said they don’t play cards anymore, but are still friends. Linda thinks she started with the club as early as the 1940s.
Carmela doesn’t know what the best invention of her 100 years is, although her family thinks it is amazing all she’s seen.
“There weren’t even airplanes to fly in when she was born,” Vic said. “There’s so much to choose from, I just can’t decide,” Carmela said.
Linda recapped the huge family and friend celebration that was held in her honor Sunday with more than 125 people. Carmela said she loved every minute of it and lovingly looked at the pictures of the event on Linda’s phone as she talked about the party.
“They closed down the restaurant just for my party,” Carmela said.
The assisted living center held a party for her Tuesday — a purple party, since it is Carmela’s favorite color.
“She’s taken advantage of everything she’s been given. She takes the good and makes it better,” Linda said of Carmela.
For Carmela, that’s just the way she’s always been.
“I’ve just been living,” Carmela said.