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Kay Morrocco, a much beloved resident at The Harriett and Ralph Kaplan Estates Assisted Living, celebrated her 100th birthday on August 10.

To mark this special milestone, the assisted living and Kay’s family planned two surprise social distancing birthday celebrations.

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On the morning of August 10, staff from the Peabody Senior Center, where Kay volunteered for almost 30 years, arrived in a bus decorated with Kay’s picture on it. Family members, staff, residents and the Senior Center volunteers sang a heartfelt rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Kay, after presenting her with a “100 & Fabulous” sash and “diamond” tiara.

Kay Morrocco at her Surprise 100th Birthday Party

With Boston TV stations the local Salem News in attendance, Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt gifted Kay with a blanket especially made with symbols of the City of Peabody. The look of surprise – and joy — on Kay’s face was priceless. After an impromptu and emotional speech, Kay was asked the secret to her longevity. “That’s easy,” she replied with a smile. “I’m Italian!”

The afternoon gave way to another celebration for family members with the continued help of wonderful staff and residents on the courtyard patio. What a special day! Kay’s three children, their spouses and four grandchildren were on hand, having made colorful signs and set up scrolling photos of Kay on the TV. Amidst a beautiful cake, decorative cards, colorful balloons and a multitude of well wishes, it was a spectacular and memorable day for Kay and her family.

Kay was born in Salem on August 10, 1920, the daughter of Peter and Josephine Giuggio of Salem, and the granddaughter of whom she is named after Catherine Cannizzaro who began the family legacy emigrating from Italy in 1902. Kay’s wonderful personal qualities and longevity are inherited from both her mother and grandmother.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt Warmly Greets Kay by Senior Center Bus

A resident of Peabody for most of her life, Kay met her husband, John “Johnny” Morrocco, in 1942 at the Oceanview Ballroom a Big Band Dance at Revere Beach in Revere. Their interest in ballroom dancing brought them together and the rest, as they say, is history. They were married in 1944 and spent 48 joyous years together. “They danced their way through life,” said the couple’s daughter Cathy Morrocco Cronin. Sadly, Johnny passed away in 1992. Kay and Johnny both loved ballroom dancing and throughout their life together they made “dancing magic” wherever they danced. They weren’t professionals, but they danced so beautifully together people would watch them and separate to let them go by – it was like the “parting of the Red Sea” on every dance floor they graced!

The recipient of numerous awards and newspaper articles, Kay has always been actively involved with the community and recognized by its former mayors, Bonfante and Torigian, as well as Peabody’s current mayor. In 1997 she received the prestigious “Peabody Person of the Year Award” as well as the “Peabody Community Spirit Award’ in 2011. In 2015 at the age of 95 she was recognized as a true role model for seniors and was awarded the celebrated Peabody Torigian Award by Mayor Bettencourt and Senator Joan Lovely at Peabody’s International Festival. She worked tirelessly to make Peabody a special place to live. Her son Jim Morrocco summed it up best. “My mom is an amazing woman. She’s strong, courageous, capable and committed.” said Morrocco. “She’s so vibrant and full of life that I often feel like she’s immortal.”

A passionate cardplayer, Kay enjoys playing an array of games at Kaplan Estates. A hot game of cards remains her favorite. She is an avid gardener and helps the staff take care of the flowering plants at the assisted living. “Kay spreads cheer wherever she goes,” said Ellen Gordon, Director of Resident Life for Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, the non-profit that operates the Harriett and Ralph Kaplan Estates Assisted Living. “She’s always sporting a smile, and her laughter is a joy to hear. Kay is a role model for all of us!”

Staff at Kaplan Estates Celebrate Kay’s 100th Birthday. Pictured left to right is Marisa Iafrate, Kay Morrocco, Ellen Gordon, Sandee Matteucci.

Kay moved into Kaplan Estates in 2017 after living alone until she was 97. “We are so pleased she is now a resident of the assisted living,” said Cathy Cronin. “It gives our whole family such peace of mind to know that she is active, well cared-for and, above all, happy!”

Happy 100th Birthday, Kay. You are truly a remarkable person and an inspiration to us all!