Coming from humble beginnings in St. Louis, Rose now lives with her granddaughter Shannan Renna-Ditmer and her fiancee. The trio share a dwelling with several pets including birds, dogs, turtles and tortoises.
“She was one of six children living in the Italian ghetto of St. Louis,” said Shannan. “They came from absolutely nothing, lived in the top of a warehouse with one room, with one bathroom to a mother born in Italy and an American-born Italian father who sold produce.”
One of Rose’s fondest recollections is of meeting Franklin Delano Roosevelt 87 years ago while growing up.
“I was 13 years old and in eighth grade and they let us out of school to go to the parade for FDR when he was running for president the first time,” she said. “I was on a corner and he came by in a car and I shook his hand. He was very nice. He said, ‘Be a nice girl.’ And I said, ‘I’ll try.’”
Rose later worked in the first Social Security office in St. Louis, which was a federal program FDR signed into law in 1935.
Rose and her late husband moved from St. Louis “to start a new life in the West.” They eventually settled in Santa Maria in the San Francisco Bay Area where they jointly owned a liquor store, which, according to Rose, “was on the same corner for 37 years.”
Rose suffered a stroke in 2015 but recovered quickly. “We caught it at the very beginning so she had minimal damage,” said Shannan, adding her grandma today is as sharp as ever. “Her mind is always going,” she said.
Rose’s friend, Kathy Hargrove, describes her as “no ordinary older woman. She plays bridge twice a week, rummy cue, goes to baseball games, plays solitare daily, etc.”
Her granddaughter noted Rose is also a shrewd, self-educated businesswoman who became an astute stock-market investor. “She bought original Apple stock in the ’70s,” said Shannan.
“I ended up with 1,000 shares, at $500 to $600 a share,” pointed out Rose.
Added Shannan, “My grandpa was the workhorse. Grandma was the brains, a real go-getter.”
“I never thought I’d live this long,” admitted Rose who, when asked what accounts for her longevity replied,“I’ve always been very very active. I’ve done everything in moderation. I never smoked. I very seldom drink.”
Shannan said Rose loves “all sports.” Rose is even a hockey buff, enjoying going to San Diego Gulls minor league hockey games at Pechanga Arena in the Midway District. Rose also has two boyfriends she enjoys going to watch regularly playing senior softball.
When asked what advice she’d give to others who are elderly caretakers, Shannan said, “Getting breaks is really important so you don’t get burned out. We also keep humor going on all the time. We’re always laughing, always joking around. She (Rose) tells people how terrible my cooking is. And I ask, ‘You’re still alive aren’t you?’”
Shannan is her grandma’s biggest cheerleader.
“She’s always treated people with respect and kindness and love,” Shannan said. “I feel like I’ve gotten that from her. She’s got this unconditional love for her family.”
“I love people,” concurred Rose.
“You meet Rose and just immediately fall in love with her,” said Shannan. “People just gravitate towards her. She gives people their grandma fix, because so many people don’t have their grandmas anymore. She’s so lovely to all of my friends.”
What Rose is most proud of though, after having lived a century, is her progeny.
“My family is fifth generation now,” pointed out Rose, who is now enjoying the company of her great-great grandchild.