Each year around this time, John Jezioro looks forward to celebrating his birthday with his grandmother, Mary Romino, however, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 put an end to this year’s party.
Instead, late Friday afternoon, Jezioro joined with his family and other relatives to watch 100 vehicles parade past his grandmother’s home on Avalon Road to help her celebrate her 100th birthday.
“I turned 50 yesterday and she turned 100 today,” Jezioro said. “She and I usually celebrate together every year, but this year was a little different.”
Led by Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Riffle, the parade of friends offered up balloons, birthday cards and lots of smiles and shouting. Some, however, broke protocol, got out of their vehicles and ran onto Romino’s yard to give her hugs under threatening claps of thunder.
Jezioro said his grandmother was known for her hospitality throughout Fairmont, her neighborhood and her church family.
“She’s the kind of person, that if you knocked on her door and said you were hungry, she’d fix you something to eat,” Jezioro said. “She’s old-school Italian like nobody.”
Having raised three children, Romino has lived in her home since 1961 and has been active for years in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in downtown Fairmont. She is still a member of the church’s funeral choir. And in her century, Romino has also celebrated the birth of nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
“Every Easter, I got Easter Bread and something else every Christmas. She baked for the whole neighborhood and I don’t think she ever missed a funeral,” said Nancy Talkington, who lives across the street from Romino.
Talkington watched in awe as what seemed like every neighbor on the West Side turned out to help Romino celebrate.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean she brought out the whole town. What a tribute,” Talkington said.
Romino’s daughter, Donna Metz, 66, of Fairmont, said the family had originally planned to host an open house at the Knights of Columbus hall on Mary Lou Retton Drive, but when the COVID-19 struck, plans had to change. So, they decided to keep Friday’s event secret from her mother.
“When did you plan this?” Romino asked Metz in between cars passing by and wishing her happy birthday.
“This was a surprise to me,” Romino said. “I couldn’t believe so many people showed up.”
Romino didn’t stop driving her own car until she turned 97 and she used to be known for a pretty good golf game, as well as partaking in renown hunting trips with her late husband, who was a well-known physician in Fairmont for years.
“She took care of everything,” Metz said.
When asked if she had any advice for people on how to live to be 100, Romino made it sound simple.
“Eat a doughnut and have a cup of coffee every morning,” she said. “I usually just tell people to just do the best they can.”