(ELGIN) Wearing a red rose and baby’s breath wrist corsage, a birthday hat adorned with silk flowers, and her beloved rosary around her neck, Bernice Conro celebrated her 104th birthday Saturday surrounded by four generations of family. The resident of Tower Hill Healthcare in South Elgin said Saturday she felt happy on the occasion.
“She’s also got a sister Dorothy who is 103,” said Conro’s son, Darwin Conro of Hampshire. He and his wife of 63 years, Beverly, attended the party in Bernice’s honor, where a table of fresh flowers, gifts and a cake marked the occasion. Darwin Conro said he is the eldest of three sons; his brothers, the Rev. Ronald Conro and Darryl Conro passed away in 2000 and 2004 respectively.
Staying active has been a key to her long and healthy life, agreed Darwin Conro and Jeff Sikula, Bernice’s grandson-in-law of Huntley.
“She’s a busy gal and she always seems happy,” said Sikula, married to Karen, Darwin and Beverly Conro’s daughter.
Bernice’s son said he has fond memories of his mother’s involvement in St. Lawrence Church in Elgin. A number of senior citizen organizations also engaged her, he said, adding she’s now the eldest member of St. Charles Borremoeo in Huntley. Born in the Burlington area, she was the eldest of 12 and occasionally worked part time. Her husband Edward died in 1996.
“She used to play pinochle,” Darwin Conro said, “and she still knows us when Bev and I come visit.”
That’s every Sunday, Darwin Conro said, noting his mom still walks while pushing her own wheelchair. During Saturday’s party, the guest of honor greeted each visitor with a handshake and posted for dozens of photos. Other party guests included Jane and Royal Smith of Elgin; Bernice’s grandchildren Sue Miller of Belvidere, Sharon Newman of Woodstock with her husband Jerry, and Darlene Allen of Hampshire, with her daughter Amy Allen (Bernice’s great granddaughter), and Amy’s son Gavin, 5, (Bernice’s great-great-grandson).
According to Darwin Conro, she has a total of eleven grandchildren, Steve Conro of Kaneville; Michael Conro in Canada; Sue Miller of Belvidere; Linda Lewis of Galesburg; Darlena Allen of Hampshire; Pam Coffman of California; Doug Conro of Iowa; Karen Sikula of Huntley; Sharon Newman of Woodstock; Janine Barnetti of DeQuayne; and Jennifer Kent of Hampshire; 15 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren.
Liliana Gavina, a CNA at Tower Hill, said Bernice wears her rosary every day and almost always, a smile too.
Beverly Conro said the Tower Hill staff is friendly and takes excellent care of Bernice.
“They are wonderful to her,” she said, “and she enjoys them a lot.”
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