Norwalk woman's secret to long life: Good genes and vegetables

Hour Staff Writer

NORWALK -- The natural rules of aging don't apply to Frederica Cenatiempo, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday over dinner and dancing -- her two favorite pastimes.

"I love dancing and I love eating," the sprightly Cenatiempo said with a smile. "I love just about everything." 

The longtime Norwalk resident quietly celebrated her 100th birthday with her husband, Alfredo.

However, the couple plans to commemorate the occasion with a blowout birthday bash this Sunday at the South Norwalk Boat Club, where the guest of honor will be seated at the head table, dressed in a ruby red gown and tiara.

"You don't get to celebrate 100 years everyday," said her husband of 64 years, Alfredo Cenatiempo. "I figured I'd go out of my way because she deserves every bit of it. She's a wonderful person, and I'm so proud that she's lived so long."

Cenatiempo credits his wife's longevity to good genes, an active lifestyle and a diet that consists of 80 percent vegetables.

"You have to be careful what you put in your body," he said. "We don't use too much pork, too much grease." 

Genetics have clearly contributed to Cenatiempo's long life and age-defying appearance. She is the oldest of four girls -- ages 97, 95 and 86 --all of whom are still living.

"God don't want me up there," Cenatiempo says, pointing to the heavens. "He's keeping me down here." 

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Cenatiempo moved to Norwalk when she was 5 years old after her father found the city on a Sunday afternoon while in search of a waterfront destination.

He took the train to Washington Street in South Norwalk, where he spent the afternoon fishing from the pier with a man who would later become a lifelong friend.

"When he went home, he says to his wife, 'We got to go live in Norwalk,'" Alfredo Cenatiempo said through a heavy Italian accent. "That's how they came here."

Cenatiempo, 87, has a different story: He met his wife in Italy while she was on vacation visiting her family in the southwestern city of Salerno.

"Naturally, we got acquainted and fell in love," he said.

The couple was married on Jan. 11, 1948, inside a small church in Cenatiempo's hometown of Piedimonte, a small village located on the island of Ischia. They moved to Norwalk the following year, had two children, and later opened a hair salon -- Alfredo's -- on North Main Street, which closed in 1997.

The Cenatiempos have spent their retirement traveling between Norwalk and Florida, where both their sons have families.

Frederica said the entire family will come together on Sunday to celebrate her 100th birthday. There will be dinner, cake, and of course, dancing.

"I'm looking forward to it," she said.
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