This month, the small town of Willits in Northern California is set to celebrate a monumental milestone: the 116th birthday of Edith “Edie” Recagno Keenan Ceccarelli, the United States’ oldest living person and the second oldest globally.
As per tradition, Willits is gearing up for a grand birthday parade, a day before Ceccarelli’s actual birthday, transforming the occasion into the season’s highlight event.
Ceccarelli, a beloved local figure, has been the heart of Willits’ annual birthday festivities, which have evolved into a significant community event. This year, despite the forecasted rain, the parade promises a spirited turnout, featuring town employees, the vice mayor, council members, and local fire and police departments. The procession will also include the Boy Scouts, a few horses, and a well-known local dog-walker, creating a vibrant tribute to Ceccarelli’s remarkable life.
@mendocinocountyhistory She turns 115 in less than a month! #mendocinocounty #willits #ediececcarelli #oldestliving #fyp #california #history ? Stories 2 – Danilo Stankovic
Residents and visitors are invited to join the drive-by celebration, passing Ceccarelli’s assisted living home with cars adorned in balloons and streamers, a gesture to ensure she feels cherished on her special day.
“Every year, we make sure she knows how special she is,” says lead parade organizer Suzanne Picetti.
Anticipation is particularly high for Ceccarelli’s favorite carrot cake, which will be served along with strawberry ice cream, another of her favorites, before the parade’s commencement.
Born in Willits in 1908, Ceccarelli’s life mirrors the town’s rich history, with her family’s roots tracing back to Italy in the early 1900s. Her longevity and vitality, continuing to dress elegantly well into her centennial years, have made her a local legend and a symbol of Willits’ enduring spirit.
Ceccarelli’s life, marked by hard work, family, and a love for dancing and the outdoors, encapsulates the essence of a bygone era, providing a living bridge to Northern California’s past. As Willits prepares to celebrate this extraordinary milestone, Edie Ceccarelli stands as a beloved emblem of history, resilience, and the profound sense of community that defines this Northern California town.