Bradys Bend native survived 1918 pandemic

August 12, 2020 Cranberry Local News

Mary Cassesse, who grew up in Bradys Bend and lives in Wexford, celebrated her 102nd birthday Tuesday with a private party featuring her favorite foods: sausage-mushroom pizza and Klondike bars. Cassesse was born during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Her advice is to just keep smiling, something she's lived by.

The Waters of Wexford resident and Bradys Bend native Mary Cassesse was born in 1918, when World War I was coming to an end and the Spanish flu pandemic was beginning.

At that time, people wore masks in public, businesses and schools closed and the sick were quarantined.

The situation isn't much different in 2020, when Cassesse turns 102.

She celebrated her birthday Tuesday within the walls of her Warrendale retirement community because of COVID-19.

“We just love Mary,” said Alaina Kuzins, senior living consultant at the retirement community. “She is well known within the community for being a wealth of wisdom and full of jokes.”

Mary Cassesse

Kuzins joined other management staff in honoring Cassesse's birthday Tuesday morning. A special ceremony in the community's dining room featured Cassesse's favorite meal: sausage-mushroom pizza and Klondike bars.

Kuzins says she knows Mary would have liked her friends to be able to be with her to celebrate.

But The Waters of Wexford is being careful to make sure residents stay safe, according to Kuzins.

Staff is screened daily upon arriving for work to make sure they aren't running a temperature; surfaces are regularly cleaned; everyone wears masks in the community areas; and social distancing is practiced.

“The community is COVID-free,” Kuzins said. “We want to keep it that way.”

When discussing with staff the secret to a long life, Cassesse said she attributes her 102 years to one thing.

“I never got married,” Cassesse said.

While saying she couldn't name the best decade she witnessed because “they were all great,” Cassesse said she believes the electric washer and dryer were the most important inventions in her lifetime.

Cassesse, who was one of eight children, grew up in Bradys Bend Township, Armstrong County, with her family in a two-bedroom house.

“It was a company house, owned by the limestone company my dad worked for,” Cassesse said. “My parents rented it for $9 a month.”

To the four or five generations that have come after Cassesse, she says the best thing to do is keep smiling.

It's a piece of advice she lives by herself.

“Daily, Mary looks forward to getting her mail and sitting in our cafe,” Kuzins said, “to greet other residents and staff as they pass by.”