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In Westwood, a special birthday

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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff

State Representative Paul McMurtry of Dedham stepped up to the podium and looked across his audience. Nearby, State Senator Mike Rush, who had spoken moments earlier, looked on. There was a burning question on Rep. McMurtry’s mind, and it needed to be asked.

“Typically, when Senator Rush and I come here, we ask ‘What do you need from us?’ Well, I’m going to ask something of you,” he said. “Can you share your secret for longevity?”

The delighted crowd laughed.

“I want to come around,” he continued. “Tell me what it is. If it’s a drink a day, or just living a good quality life, I need to know.”

Rep. McMurtry’s question was perfectly apropos. A week ago, the Westwood Council on Aging assembled over 40 residents over the age of 90 for a yearly birthday party, complete with music, refreshments and good company. For the room full of nonagenarian miracles, it was a welcome day out - a chance to catch up with old friends and feel the love of their community.

“They’re all 90-plus,” said Lina Arena-DeRosa, Director of the Westwood Council on Aging. “We invite everyone who is 90-plus to this party, and I think there are over 40 people here, which is really amazing. There’s about 80 in town, and about half of them come. They love this event. They get to meet some of their friends that they never get to see anymore.”

Informed that her event - the Council’s on Aging’s event - was a spectacular success, Arena-DeRosa could only deflect all praise to her community and staff:
“My staff and volunteers - look at them! And we had people we had to say ‘no’ to who wanted to help. Our Halloween Party’s the same way. How wonderful is that? It’s an amazing community.

“I give full credit to Trish Tuck, one of my staff people. She coordinates this entire event,” continued Arena-DeRosa. “She really goes all-out to find them. We work with the Clerk’s office to find out who’s around, then Trish makes phone calls and we send individual invitations. We really, really try to get them here.”

Among those who made it out: Elizabeth Gulezian, a rather youthful-looking 93, who was celebrating her actual birthday on the day, October 20. She had come with her daughter and great-granddaughter to take in the occasion.

“I thank God I’m here, and [for] my wonderful family. This place is great, and thank you so much,” she said.

And as for that secret that Rep. McMurtry was talking about? Elizabeth was willing to share.

“My secret: handle life as it comes,” she said. “Every day, you handle life as it comes to you. Good, bad, indifferent, empty,” she took a moment to laugh at the thought. “Every day is special. I thank God for every day, and I try to do the best I can within that day and handle a problem when it comes to me, right away. I don’t know why I’m so technical, but that’s the way it is.”

Whatever their secrets were, one thing remained certain: the day was a special one.
“We are very blessed here in Westwood,” bluntly stated Arena-DeRosa. “The Senator, the Representative, the selectmen, they always come. They come to our events because they really care.” She pauses a moment before concluding: “You can’t teach caring.”

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