Bristol resident celebrates 109th birthday

By Manny Correira
Posted 3/2/23

She was born prior to World War I, and kept driving until she was 102.

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Bristol resident celebrates 109th birthday


Genevieve Marszalek has had many birthday parties in her 109 years on this planet, but never did she anticipate the greetings she received Tuesday afternoon at the Bristol House of Pizza.

Not only were family and friends in attendance, including a visit from members of the Bristol Police Dept., headed by Chief Kevin Lynch, who presented her with a special proclamation marking the occasion, but a surprise appearance by WPRI-TV Channel 12 videographer John Villella, who captured the moment for a special television presentation that will air this Friday night.

“To say she was shocked is an understatement,“ noted Greg Gatos, whose BHOP family put this birthday celebration in motion. “She deserved all of these accolades.”             

It’s amazing to see and listen to the remarkable Genevieve Marszalek, a woman who has defied the odds as she continues to rack up birthday celebrations in record fashion.      

Genevieve turned 109 years of age on Monday without any fanfare, at least not the type of celebration she encountered the following day at Bristol House of Pizza, where family and friends gathered for her latest party.

Born on Feb. 27, 1914, Genevieve is not your everyday elderly resident. Despite her age, she acts a lot younger and is a joy to be around. She’s well-educated and knows everything that is happening in the world around her. On this particular birthday celebration, she was at her whimsical best.

“I can’t believe I’m still here,” she smiled. “Everybody has been so kind to me.”

Certainly one of the oldest residents living here in the East Bay area, Genevieve, if one can imagine, was born at the same time Woodrow Wilson was sitting in the White House as this nation’s 28th president, and five months before the start of World War I. For the record, this woman has seen it all…and done it all in style.

“I loved to travel when I was younger,” she explained.  “I’ve been to many parts of the world. It’s been wonderful.  And, the people here are just great.”

Born on Wood Street in Bristol, Genevieve is the daughter of the late Pasquale “Patsy” and Frances Pagnano. She also has one other sister (Patricia Fojo) living in Florida, who also attended the party this week in her honor. Genevieve was also the sister of the late Helen Pagnano and Lucy Bruno. She later married her husband, Joseph Marszalek, an FBI agent for a number of years, and together, traveled throughout the United States while he worked on the job.

“My sister was always there for all of us,” said Patricia, the youngest Pagnano sibling, who now lives in Longwood, Fla. “My sister came to visit me in Trinidad years ago, and to be honest, I never thought she would her reach this age.”

“I come back to Bristol every year when it’s warm,” she added, “but I wanted to be here this week for her 109th birthday. This was such a surprise for her.”

Amazingly, something that went unnoticed initially, Genevieve doesn’t wear glasses when she stays at home or travels about. Remarkable, considering her age.

“I used to read a book every day,” she disclosed. “I don’t anymore, but I did get a lot of pleasure when I read books.”

Genevieve was also a teacher at Guiteras School years ago and loved being around kids who were thirsting for knowledge. There’s not much that Genevieve hasn’t enjoyed doing.

She previously resided independently for many years all alone at Bristol’s North Farm. She now calls the Willows Assisted Living in Warren her home.

Genevieve may have slowed down a bit as one might imagine, but her vibrant personality continues to shine through.

“She’s an amazing lady,” echoed Tula Gatos, co-owner of Bristol House of Pizza. “We love her so much. We’ve given her a birthday party in each of the past several years or so. She comes here regularly on Wednesday to eat during the year.”

Not until a few years ago, at age 102, did Genevieve decide it was time to quit driving.

“I figured at that age, it was time to give it up,” she said in an earlier interview.

And, to put everything into proper perspective, when she resided at North Farm, she had her own condominium where she climbed 27 stairs every single day. She never complained about anything and went through her daily routine without incident.

Tula Gatos personally enjoys arranging a party for Genevieve’s birthday each year.

“She’s just a wonderful lady to be around,” she exclaimed. “She comes here to the restaurant regularly accompanied by Candace Teixeira, and she lights up the room with her presence. We all love her dearly.”

As people were leaving the restaurant after all of hoopla, the main question continued to be bandied about. “Is Genevieve the oldest living Bristol native?”

Quite possibly, but that’s a story for another day.

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