Celebrating a 100th birthday and new friends

Anne Marie Pirillo, left, manager of parish-based senior programs for VITALity, sits with Mildred “Millie” George, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Through VITALity’s Stephen Ministry, Pirillo came to know George after the death of her daughter.
Photo by Peter G. Sánchez

GLASSBORO — Last Saturday afternoon, Mildred “Millie” George celebrated her 100th birthday with family, friends and fellow residents of Greenfield Senior Living at Cross Keys here. Bishop Dennis Sullivan passed along his best wishes in a letter.  The city of Camden, where she lived for many years, presented her with a plaque for her years of service in the RCA building and in the Mayor’s Office.

It was a joyous time for a woman who has not been without her trials and sufferings recently, but also, has not been without the support of new friends, courtesy of the Camden Diocese’s VITALity Healthcare.

“She was emotional. It was a beautiful day for her,” noted Anne Marie Pirillo, Stephen Ministry Leader at Sewell’s Church of the Holy Family and manager of parish-based senior programs for VITALity, who has developed a close bond with George after first meeting her five years ago. It was a time of distress for George.

“Her daughter Nancy had passed away, and Millie was in a dark place, grieving,” Pirillo says.

The senior residence contacted Holy Family because they knew the parish was involved in Stephen Ministry, a compassionate care program to aid those who are going through difficult times.

Through weekly interactions, Pirillo came to know George and her life.

Born in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, the fourth of nine children to Angelina and Rocco Simone, Millie and her family relocated to Camden when she was 7 years old and attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School.

“My faith has been my life,” Millie said.

She found work in Camden after school, first at the RCA building, making audio equipment for aircraft, and later at City Hall, in the Mayor’s Office.

She met and married Enrico “Henry” George, who retired from active Navy duty and worked in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and the couple had two daughters: Nancy, and Renee, who was born with Downs syndrome.

In 1984 Henry died and last year Renee, who had lived in a group home for the past 40 years, died.

“My husband was a gentle man and my children were smart girls,” Millie said of her family.

“I talk to Henry, Nancy and Renee every night before bed,” she said.

Pirillo, and VITALity, have become Millie’s closest companions during these last few years.

“Through many tears, prayers and God’s compassionate love, Millie has found peace,” Pirillo remarked.

“This is what Stephen Ministers are called to do — be the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said.

Even though Millie’s hearing and eyesight are failing, “she still has a lot of spunk,” said her son-in-law, Wayne Farrington, widower of Nancy and Millie’s primary caretaker. “She’s always upbeat.”

Farrington praised the work of Pirillo and Rosemary Love of VITALity, who has helped with Medicaid assistance for Millie. “They have been fantastic, truly one-of-a-kind people,” he said.

“I’ve had a good life, kept close to the faith,” Millie said. “The people around me are good people. God gives you the good, and the strength to deal with the bad.”

For Millie, more good days of poker, trivia, bingo and, of course, Pirillo’s and VITALity’s visits, await.