Isabel Mary Roberts’ has always taken life one day at a time — and what a successful life choice that has been.
Roberts celebrated her 105th birthday Tuesday, May 21, at Wesley Village — the place she has called home for the past two decades — with a special birthday cake and even some of her favorite drink, scotch and water, as her friends and health care aids looked on and cheered her on.
“She is probably one of the strongest people I know,” said Sheila Franko, who became Roberts’ nurse some six years ago — during which time they have grown quite close. “She is a great lady.”
Along with the cake and drink, Roberts also received a special certificate of achievement from Mayor Mark Lauretti, a longtime family friend who "only three years ago presented her with a proclamation in celebration of her 102nd birthday.
“She always says her secret to long life is to take it one day at a time,” said Lauretti to all gathered in the Lifestyles cafeteria area to celebrate Roberts’ long life. “On behalf of the city of Shelton, I wish Isabel a very happy 105th birthday and many, many more.”
Lauretti said he first met the family in the early 1980s when Roberts’ son, who had just moved to the city, began patronizing the mayor’s restaurant. Lauretti said the son was a frequent patron, and soon he and his wife met his family and developed a friendship with Roberts.
“She is amazing,” said Janet Petrillo, who was an aide who assisted Roberts daily for nine years during her stay in Wesley Heights. “Every year, I’d say to her, you’re another year older. I would ask her ‘why do you think you are living so long?’ She would say I take it a day at a time.”
“She is such a great person,” added Petrillo. “We have had some good times together.”
Petrillo said she and Roberts would go shopping and out to eat often over the years. Now Roberts is in hospice care and legally blind, but not without a quick wit and love for books. Roberts, while confined to a wheelchair, still loves spending time outside and listening to audio books.
“She is always fun to talk to,” said Petrillo, adding that Roberts loves candy, talking about her youth living in Scotland and looking forward to Petrillo’s Christmas and Easter cookies. “She is just the kind of person you got attached to.”
Roberts, born May 21, 1914, in the shipbuilding town of Clydebank, Scotland. She had an older sister, Agnes, and a younger brother, James. The family moved to America in 1925, coming over on the SS Californian.
It was the stories of her time in Scotland and the travels to the States that cultivated the bond between Roberts and Franko, whose family was also from Scotland. Franko’s siblings were born in Scotland, and she was the first of the family born in the United States.
“We would talk about Scotland, all the traditions, and through that we started to become friends, but it grew into so much more,” said Franko. “I love hearing her stories. She is so resilient. She has been through a lot. Her life has not been easy, but she just keeps moving forward.”
Roberts said her fondest memory of her parents was they were both quite kind. And her fondest childhood memory was coming to the United States on the SS Californian when she was 11 years old. She married when she was 21 and had two children. Her favorite food is pot roast, and her favorite drink is scotch and water — a taste for which she has until this day.
Roberts, who has lived through two world wars, the creation of the television and so much more, said the best invention of the time was the color television because “she enjoyed watching it.”
When asked what the secret to a long life is, she replied take one day at a time and added that what she would like to pass on to the younger generation is to not be in such a hurry all the time.
“People are always rushing around to one thing or another,” said Roberts. “People need to sit down and smell the roses.”