Griswold Senior Center's 'Mama Betty' Mentillo turns 100

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Feb. 11, 2014
'Mama Betty' Mentillo (r) admires her birthday cake during her 100th birthday party at the Griswold Senior Center. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
'Mama Betty' Mentillo (r) admires her birthday cake during her 100th birthday party at the Griswold Senior Center. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Betty Mentillo doesn’t really have a recipe for living a long life. When asked for her secret, she quipped, “The devil doesn’t want me yet.” But her friends and admirers at the Griswold Senior Center have their theories about how she reached the milestone of 100 years.

“She comes with us to hockey games and she hikes right along,” said Griswold Senior Center Assistant Director Judi Merrill. “You offer her help but she says, 'I’m fine, I don’t need any help.’ Anything we’re doing, she does. She’s a poster child for aging well.”

A packed house assembled at the senior center Feb. 7 for a belated 100th birthday party for the lady universally known as "Mama Betty." Mentillo was showered with flowers and treated to a celebratory birthday cake, as well as a citation from the Connecticut State Legislature presented by state Rep. Steve Mikutel (D-45).

“Maybe it’ll rub off on me,” Mikutel joked as he shook Mentillo’s hand. “We have a lot to learn from people like Betty. Instead of fearing getting old, we should celebrate getting old. She’s a perfect example of how we should age.”

Mentillo said she visits the senior center nearly every day and rides the bus with the group on many of its trips. She spends a fair amount of time with the center’s knitting and crochet group, making baby blankets that are donated to local hospitals. “When I moved here, I only knew seven people,” she said. “Look what I’m into now.”

Mentillo was driving until last spring, when she voluntarily gave up her license, “just before the motorcycles came out in full force. I thought, if anything happens, whether it’s my fault or not, I’d be blamed for it because of my age,” she said.

A native of Stamford, Mentillo and her late husband, William, had a summer cottage in Griswold for many years. Besides raising her son, Bill, and her daughter, Betty Mentillo Knox, she worked in a drugstore in Stamford for close to three decades. When Bill died after nearly 70 years of marriage, Mentillo moved to Griswold to be close to her daughter.

Senior center director Tina Falck said that in her nine years as director, Mentillo is the first active member to become a centenarian.

“I learn a couple of things every time I talk to her,” said First Selectman Kevin Skulczyck, who also offered his congratulations.

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