We don't want to wait until the next issue of The Catholic Mirror to bring you this story!
By Patti Brown
Her hearing isn’t very good anymore, but when you consider that her ears have heard sounds in three different centuries—since April 4, 1897—she’s got a good excuse.
Despite a walker that she uses to get to the dining room, Dina Manfredini is healthy and strong and, at 114, the oldest member of not just Sacred Heart Parish, or the Diocese of Des Moines, but the oldest person in Iowa.
In fact, Dina is one of 88 supercentenarians—people who are older than 110 in the world -- and right now she is the world’s fourth oldest person and the second oldest person in the United States, according to the Gerontology Research Group’s list of verified living supercentenarians.
Dina was born and raised in Sant’Andrea, a small town in northern Italy, the month the after William McKinley became president of the United States and just a few weeks before Guglielmo Marconi sent the first wireless communication over the open sea. It was still the Victorian age, in fact Queen Victoria was celebrating 50 years on the throne in England. That spring, Pope Leo XIII promulgated his encyclical Divinum Illud Munus, and in September, Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, who became Pope Paul VI, would be born in a nearby village.
She came to America as a bride in 1920 and settled with her husband, Riccardo, in a tiny mining camp on the southwest edge of Des Moines. Riccardo was 15-years older and had come to America first before sending for Dina.
The couple raised four children, Mary, Dante, Rudy and Enes. Today, Enes Logli says she and her siblings walked five miles each way every Saturday to and from the old Sacred Heart Church on 4th Street in Valley Junction for catechism classes. “We lived ‘out in the country’ near 42nd and Park. So we couldn’t always get to Mass on Sunday mornings, but we always got to catechism classes,” said Logli. “My parents lived their faith. They were poor, but we didn’t realize it. We didn’t have electricity back then.”
Dina’s husband worked in the city’s coal mines until hurting his back. Then she went to work to make ends meet. As the nation prepared for World War II, Dina worked at the Des Moines Ordnance Plant in Ankeny where 2 million rounds of ammunition were produced a day. She also worked at Swift cracking eggs that would be turned into powdered eggs for U.S. soldiers. She also cleaned houses until she was 90, lying about her age so people wouldn’t think she was too old to work.
In 1939, Dina and her husband bought a little bungalow on 1st Street in Valley Junction. Riccardo died in 1965 and Dina continued to live there until moving into the Martina Place Assisted Living Residence at the Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston about four years ago when she was 110. These days, she spends much of her day sleeping.
“She is one of the most amazing people,” said Father Tom DeCarlo, chaplain for the residents of Bishop Drumm. “Her hearing is bad but she responds to Italian and I am able to speak some Italian to her.”
In addition to her four children, three of whom are still living, Dina has seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren.
Wow! Dina is such a remarkable woman. I hope she'll have more years to enjoy life and the love of her family.