The Ukiah Daily Journal
Is dancing the secret to longevity?
For most of her extraordinarily long life, nothing could keep Edie Ceccarelli from dancing.
Certainly not age, as she stayed on the dance floor many years after turning 100, and not even losing her dance partner of 20 years. Because instead of finally deciding to sit out the music at age 104, Ceccarelli wrote her local newspaper in the hopes of finding a new partner.
“I, Edith Ceccarelli, would like to keep on dancing, as would have my late friend and dance partner Ed Burton, whom I miss beyond words,” she wrote in the letter published in The Willits News in March of 2012. “I am looking for a dance partner. Dancing keeps your limbs strong. What is nicer than holding a lovely lady in your arms and dancing a beautiful waltz or two-step together? Try it, you will like it.”
She signed the letter with her phone number, then waited for someone to call. At least one local man did respond to her letter, a family member recalls, and the two did dance together, but the spark Ceccarelli was looking for was not created.
“I think she was trying to replace Ed, and it didn't work,” said Willits resident Evelyn Persico, whose husband is a second-cousin to Edie, explaining that while Edie and the man who answered her ad remained friends, their dancing could not replace the special connection she had with Ed, or her second husband, Charlie.
Ceccarelli had met both of her late husbands though music, meeting the first, Elmer (who was called “Brick” because of his red hair), in high school because they both played the saxophone, Persico said.
When Brick died after 50 years of marriage to Edie, she thought “I'd never fall in love or get married again,” Persico recalls Ceccarelli saying. But then at one of the weekend dances in Ukiah that she attended regularly, Edie saw Charlie Ceccarelli, their eyes locked, and “that was it.”
After Charlie died a few years later in
1990, 82-year-old Edie found a new partner, but this time just for dancing, because Ed Burton was married to someone else. And though Burton's wife also loved to dance, she was unable to after being struck by a car while crossing the street, Persico recalls.
“And what love his wife had, to support Ed being a partner to Edie, which allowed them both to keep doing what they loved,” Persico said of Hattie, who died in 2006 after 60 years of marriage to Ed.
Earlier this month, Ceccarelli turned 115, and is now considered to not only be the oldest person living in the United States, but the third-oldest person alive on Earth.
“She's definitely gone the distance, that's for sure,” said Persico, who still vividly recalls the vivacious woman “who was always up to do things and be involved.”
Even breaking both her hips couldn't stop Edie, Persico said, explaining that several years ago, Ceccarelli fell and broke one hip that was replaced.
And even when the second hip was replaced after another fall, the 112-year-old was still getting up and around with her walker, happily greeting all the people who drove by her home to wish her a `Happy birthday' in 2020.
Three years later, Edie is far less active and engaged, sitting calmly earlier this month for the annual neighborhood birthday celebration. Persico said dementia has now shrouded much of the vibrant woman's personality, but there are still moments when she comes dancing back.
“Suddenly she'll say, `It's Feb. 5. It's my birthday!'” Persico said.