When Margaret Gatti was born, Woodrow Wilson was president, Pancho Villa left exile in the United States to return to Mexico, and the Ford Motor Company introduced its first moving assembly line.
Gatti, who was born in December of 1913, celebrated her 105th birthday recently at Brookdale Senior Living. Family members and the many friends she’s made at the center were there to help her celebrate. Gov. Greg Abbott and Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman sent official proclamations to her for her birthday.
She’s only been at the retirement home since last year, but it’s easy to see she’s made the adjustment from living at home with her granddaughter to a community atmosphere. Busy with bingo and getting her her nails and hair done, Gatti continually enjoys meeting people and socializing in general. While her hearing is not what she’d like it to be, the League City native still loves being part of any conversation. Growing up, her hometown was pretty small – just 112 people.
When asked what job she held, she proudly explained, “I was a farmer. We raised all kinds of vegetables: beets, carrots, turnips, cabbage, bell pepper.” She pauses only for a moment to recall, “and tomatoes in the spring.”
The oldest of three children, Gatti helped raise her two younger siblings – including a sister who lived to be 93 years old. Although she comes from a family of longevity – her mother lived to be 99 years old, an uncle to 100 years – sadly she has outlived her two daughters. Both were in their early 60s when they died of cancer. She has also outlived her husband, whom she was married to for only 17 years; and while she became a widow at 38 years old, Gatti never remarried. She continued with her very busy career in the farming industry.
Christmas tree decorating is one of her fondest memories.
“I remember seeing a tree being cut down at someone’s tree forest. We brought it home and decorated it with paper decorations,” she said.
She can still recall memories about World War I as a small child, when her mother’s cousin, a soldier, came to their farm and brought her mother a box of candy. Although she was too young to remember, her parents later told her that during the Galveston hurricane of 1915, they secured the family into a haystack to keep them safe.
While she admits that she can’t see well enough to read, she does love bingo, plays regularly, and emphatically acknowledges “thank goodness for bingo, boy I love that!”
She has a weekly 10 a.m. exercise class, where she walks, stretches, bends.
“You name it,” she said.
Sue Phillips, executive director at Brookdale, said Gatti is physically active every day.
“When she’s not with the physical therapist, she’s in the hallway working on different exercises,” Phillips said.
Gatti actively looks forward to each day, has daily routines, and sticks to them.
“Every day, get up drink coffee and toast that’s all,” she said. “Then there’s supper – in those days it was supper – not dinner.”
Her beauty routine? She points to several jars in her room at Brookdale of Ponds Cold Cream. She’s been a faithful user of the beauty cream since 1949.
Her big passion in life, which was acknowledged by her nieces Nancy and Marie, was dancing. According to Gatti, dancing was Friday nights, Saturday nights, any night. Mexican dancing, samba, rumba, and dancing lessons. Family members said she used to dress to the hilt for dancing.
When asked what things she doesn’t like, she thinks for a moment.
“I like everything. I like everybody,” Gatti said.
The active centenarian, retired since she was 85, has some solid advice for anyone younger than her: “Don’t be lazy.”