Near the start of her life in Atlantic City, Mamie Torlini lived in a house with no heat.
And near the end of her life in Atlantic City, Torlini again was in a house with no heat.
About the only thing separating the two homes was a century or so of happy life for Torlini, who died March 2, five days before her 109th birthday.
Mamie’s only child with her late husband, Harry, is Vinent Torlini, 85. Vincent remembers stories about his mom — Mamie Palmisano as a girl, the youngest of six kids and the only one not born in Italy — growing up in a rather rustic home near the center of an early 20th-century Atlantic City.
“They lived on South Columbia (Place), in a house that had no heat, and the bathroom facilities were outside,” Vincent said Monday. “Across the street was the Worthington Hotel, which had a Christmas party for poor kids in the neighborhood. My mother went — and they threw her out because her clothing was too nice. They refused to believe she was a poor kid.”
Mamie was born in Baltimore, but her family moved to Atlantic City in 1907, when she was just 3. She never lived anywhere else, and “she remembered everything,” added Vincent, who shared a home with Mamie in her later years. “She was losing her current memories … but she remembered everything from her childhood.”
He laughs about one thing Mamie struggled to keep straight lately.
“Every once in a while, she’d say she was 103” — or some other dated age. “And I’d say, ‘No, you’re 108.’ She’d say, ‘No, I can’t be 108! Are you sure?’”
He was. And her age was a big reason why, after Hurricane Sandy hit Atlantic City, Mamie and Vincent stayed in their home even when their heating system was flooded out.
“We spent the last four months in the kitchen,” the son said, because it was easier to heat with portable heaters, and his mom couldn’t get around the house anymore.
She fell and broke several bones in recent years, but until then, she’d been fairly strong.
“We had a buffet line for her 100th birthday at Angelo’s (Fairmount Tavern),” recalls a great-great nephew, Nick Palmisano, meaning the landmark Atlantic City restaurant. “She was up, getting her own food.”
Mamie’s longevity got her into her local newspaper a few times. When she turned 101, another relative marveled that she still balanced her own checkbook. But that was hardly the limit of her financial savvy.
“At 103, she could quote all the CD rates,” Palmisano said.
Marion Palmisano, 82, is Nick’s grandmother — and a niece by marriage to “Aunt Mamie.” Marion called her “a very proper lady.”
Mamie loved to go shopping. She liked quality, and she wanted to look nice. No matter how old she got, she didn’t want to look like the poor kids.
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