Rose Girone, who lives at Cryder Point in the Beechhurst section of Whitestone, celebrated her 106th birthday with her family at an Italian restaurant on Long Island earlier this month. The centenarian credits a love of dark chocolate as one of her top secrets to longevity.
The longtime Queens resident has led a remarkable life. Girone was born on Jan. 13, 1912 in Poland, according to her granddaughter Gina Bennicasa, who calls Girone “Oma.” Girone lived in Vienna, moved to Hamburg, Germany, and married Julius Mannheim. The new couple then moved to Breslau, Germany, which is now known as Wroclaw, Poland.
Shortly after in 1939, with Nazi aggression against the Jews escalating, Girone, her husband, and daughter, Reha, needed to leave the country. After finding out China was the last remaining country that was still accepting immigrants, the family departed for Shanghai on a month-long voyage by sea and moved into an international settlement.
After enjoying a brief period of peace, war touched the family once more. The Japanese occupied Shanghai and forced Jewish residents into a ghetto, where Girone and her family shared a small room once used as a bathroom. Food was rationed and hot water was purchased from street vendors.
Aside from her family, the bright light that kept Girone going through the tough times was knitting. She was able to start a small business and save up some money before she moved to the United States after the war in 1947.
Girone eventually opened a knitting store, Rose’s Knitting Studio, on Austin Street in Forest Hills, which she operated for 40 years. There, the business owner was able to explore her passion, coming up with unique and intricate designs customers couldn’t find anywhere else. She also sold knitting supplies and taught classes to locals interested in learning the craft.
“Here, I was able to start a business. It was a great success,” Girone said. “I was well-known, gave instruction and made up some crazy designs.”
“She was very popular on that block,” Bennicasa added. “Some of the sweaters she has made are just unbelievable.”
Eager to help others learn her trade, Girone continued to teach classes at local senior centers into her second century. After retirement, she also helped a fellow entrepreneur, Dina Mor, open up her own store in Port Washington called The Knitting Place.
To show her appreciation, Mor threw a party at her store for Girone’s 100th birthday. At the end of the celebration, the business owner had a surprise for the centenarian: a painter had quietly drawn the birthday scene. The colorful painting now hangs in Girone’s dining room for all visitors to see.
Girone has lived in Cryders Point since 1968, when she married her second husband, the late Jack Girone. Today, the centenarian likes to knit, eat dark chocolate and read mystery novels, or whodunnits, as she calls them. She enjoys good health and dressing up in her knit creations.
Some of Girone’s other secrets to longevity are always waking up with a purpose, having good kids and not sweating the small stuff.
“Don’t let anyone aggravate you,” she said. “It’s why you have two ears: in one, out the other.”
Bennicasa said she and her tight-knit family are amazed most by Girone’s resilience.
“It’s been an unbelievable life. She’s always remained positive, even when conditions were horrible,” Bennicasa said. “It’s so good to have that attitude.”
“Whatever happened, I was smiling,” Girone said.