Frances Acri Merlina began the celebration of her milestone birthday with an expression of faith at Sunday mass, celebrated by her nephew, Father John Acri.
From there, it was down the hall to Homeland Center’s diner, for the family’s celebration of their matriarchs big day. Big day number 1-0-5. A number her descendants can only imagine.
Great-Granddaughter Erin Radle of Harrisburg, holding Great-Great-Granddaughter Hannah was impressed by Frances’s longevity.
‘It’s impressive. I hope I can live that long too,” said Radle.
Granddaughter Lisa Reeves of Camp Hill was equally impressed.
“I swear she’s going to outlive us all,” said Reeves. “She’s made it to 105 and that’s just amazing.”
Great-Granddaughter Anna Reeves, 10, standing beside brother Micah, 7, were asked if they could imagine a party for them a century from now.
“That would be awesome to be that old,” said Anna. “Yeah, awesome.”
Those in charge of her care at Homeland Center say Frances is like everybody’s Nana.
“We just want to say Happy Birthday, Nana,” they chanted in unison.
The party then moved to the main dining room where fellow residents and even more family showed their love for the birthday girl. A room-wide chorus of Happy Birthday accompanied a three tier cake placed in front of Frances.
Frances Merlina was born on a small farm in Halifax, Dauphin County, but raised in a Harrisburg Catholic orphanage from the age of five. She shared a 50 year marriage with Andy Merlina, and raised four children near St. Francis church in Harrisburg. Her daughter Camille is deceased, but her three sons still visit her regularly. They remember growing up in a loving environment that is still appreciated by them today.
“She was so gentle and so nice,” said 79-year-old middle son Joe Merlina. “Everybody loved her, ya know. Just like now.”
83-year-old Andy Merlina remembers that their mom always seemed to be at home, even though she worked part time out of the house.
“You came home, night time, day time, or morning and mom was there,” said Frances’s oldest son. “And most of the time she was making something to eat,” he added with a grin.
The baby of the family, 72-year-old Dave Merlina, was asked about his mother’s most outstanding character trait.
“She’s somebody that we love and respect,” he said. “Very much so.”
The party was considered by many in attendance an early Mothers Day tribute from all branches of the Merlina family tree.