3 April 2017

Maria Redaelli - supercentenarian

Inter fan who was the oldest living person in Europe

Crowds turned out in Novate Milanese as Maria arrived for a party to celebrate her 113th birthday
Crowds turned out in Novate Milanese as Maria arrived
for a party to celebrate her 113th birthday
Maria Angela Redaelli, a supercentenarian who for 10 months was the oldest living person in Europe and for 14 months the oldest living person in Italy, was born on this day in 1899 in Inzago in Lombardy.

She died in 2013 on the eve of what would have been her 114th birthday, at which point she was the fourth oldest living person in the world, behind the Japanese supercentenarians Jiroemon Kimura and Misao Okawa, and the American Gertrude Weaver.

Kimura died two months later at the age of 116 years and 54 days, which is the most advanced age reached by any male in the history of the human race, according to verifiable records.

Okawa and Weaver survived for another two years, Okawa reaching 117 years and 27 days, which made her the fifth oldest woman in history at the time, although she has since been overtaken by the Italian Emma Morano, who is still living in Pallanza on Lake Maggiore and is, at 117 years and 124 days, the oldest person on the planet of verifiable age.

Maria with her personal Inter shirt
Maria with her personal Inter shirt
At the time of her death, Maria was living in Novate Milanese, a suburb of Milan, being looked after by her 88-year-old daughter Carla and her grandson, Lamberto. She outlived her son, Luigi, by nine years.

Most of Maria’s working life was spent in a silk spinning mill, where she had a job for more than 40 years.  Her husband, Gaspare, was a steelworker employed by the locomotive and aircraft manufacturer, Breda, in the Milan suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, where they lived for much of their married life.

She and Gaspare, whom she married in 1923, were together for 56 years until he died in 1979 at the age of 81.

Although she had some problems with her hearing and vision, she remained in generally good health even until her last days. Mentally sharp, she read magazines and newspapers and followed the fortunes of her favourite Milan football team, Internazionale, on television.

When she suffered a broken thigh in a fall in 2003, it was the first time in 104 years that she had needed to go into hospital.

Maria's all-time favourite Inter player, the 1960s star Sandro Mazzola
Maria's all-time favourite Inter player,
the 1960s star Sandro Mazzola
On her 113th birthday, the Mayor of Novate Milanese hosted a party in Maria’s honour at the town hall. A police car picked her up at her daughter’s home, the mode of transport chosen because Italian police cars display the emergency telephone number 113.

At the town hall, she was surprised when the chief executive of Inter, Ernesto Paolillo, arrived with Bedy Moratti, sister of the club president, Massimo Moratti, and presented her with an Inter football shirt with her name on the back, and the number 113.

On previous occasions, she had met Inter stars Ivan Ramiro Cordoba and Javier Zanetti, although her favourite players were from a different era.

She admired Giuseppe Meazza, Inter’s prolific forward of the 1930s, after whom Milan’s municipal stadium – shared by Inter and AC Milan – was named.

Her real idol, though, was Sandro Mazzola, the goalscoring midfielder who starred in the Inter team that won the European Cup twice and the Serie A title three times in the 1960s.

She passed away in her sleep on the eve of another party planned for her, having already received a telegram of congratulations from the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napoletano.

The Villa Rey is one of a number of elegant residences that line the Martesana Canal in Inzago
The Villa Rey is one of a number of elegant residences
that line the Martesana Canal in Inzago
Travel tip:

Inzago was a small town of 4,500 people when Maria Redaelli was born, halfway betweeen Milan and Bergamo and with farmland all around it. Today, the population has more than doubled and it is part of the Milan metropolitan area, although its farming roots are still strong and a cattle fair is held in the town every Monday.  The town is divided in two by the Martesana Canal, which has a number of elegant villas – once the summer residences of noble Milanese families – along its banks.

The suburb of Sesto San Giovanni today
The suburb of Sesto San Giovanni today
Travel tip:

Sesto San Giovanni, the northernmost point on the Milan M1 metro line, is another place to have seen massive change since Maria and her husband Gaspare moved there in the 1920s, when it had a population of just over 15,000.  At that time it was an expanding industrial centre, the base for several large companies in the steel and motor industries but also the Campari drinks company.  The years after the Second World War saw a huge influx of migrants from other parts of Italy, attracted by the job possibilities. Today, the area is a busy suburb with more than 85,000 inhabitants. Many of the factories closed during the economic crisis of the 1990s and the current employers are more in the service sector, such as the telecommunications company, WIND.

More reading:

Giuseppe Meazza - Italian football's first superstar

Why Italy could not chose between Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera

Internazionale - the breakaway club conceived over dinner at a Milan restaurant

Also on this day:

(Picture credits: Maria arrives and with shirt by Andre86; Villa Rey by MarkusMark; Sesto San Giovanni by Maksim; all via Wikimedia Commons)


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