'Life is better:' Pandemic can't stop centenarians' latest birthday bash at Shelton's Hewitt Health

SHELTON — Birthday celebrations have more of a party feel at Hewitt Health and Rehab Center — just ask two of the facility’s centenarians.

Theresa Volduro Raccio and Sophie Pollock celebrated their 101st and 102nd birthdays, respectively, in the great room at the facility off Maltby Street, something that would have been unheard of only weeks ago before residents began receiving their COVID-19 vaccines.

“Life is better … from an emotional standpoint for everyone,” said Zaida Stewart, Hewitt Health and Rehab Center operations director.

“We have to stay vigilant — keep washing hands, keep wearing masks, social distance, these kinds of things — but life has more normalcy to it,” Stewart said.

A year ago, when the pandemic took hold in the state, traditional gatherings were halted. Facilities such as Hewitt Health and Rehab Center locked down in order to protect those residents most in danger of the virus’ deadly impact.

Families met, kept apart by windows, and even when visits became allowable, gatherings were only outside with few people and six feet of social distance.

Stewart said while residents were kept to their rooms mostly during this time, she would never forget special events like birthdays or Mother’s Day: she would always bring gifts. In one instance, she gave in to one resident’s request to have her nails painted — a moment of happiness only days before that same resident’s death.

“It is all about remaining positive … doing things to keep the residents in a positive frame of mind,” Stewart said. “Help people when you can.”

Raccio, born in 1920 in Derby, was married to Emil Raccio and had three children. Widowed at a young age, Raccio raised her children while managing a deli and grocery store before becoming manager at Connie’s Lingerie Shop until her retirement.

Pollock, born in New York City in 1919, was one of six children raised in Stratford. She married Michael Pollock Jr. in 1942 and had two children. Pollock worked at Remington Arms in the underground bunkers filling gun shells for military use during World War II. She also worked at Dresser Industries and Sikorsky Aircraft.

The Pollocks loved to travel and go bowling; Stewart said Pollock is known for her love of bingo and casinos. She enjoys sewing, cooking and baking creations including her specialty, fresh peach pie.