Pat Scarpino, decked in green, celebrates her beloved St. Patrick on his feast day — and her 103rd birthday. (Courtesy Deacon Jim Myers)
Pat Scarpino, decked in green, celebrates her beloved St. Patrick on his feast day — and her 103rd birthday. (Courtesy Deacon Jim Myers)

On St. Patrick’s Day at Assumption Village assisted-living community in North Portland, one resident — wearing festive green attire, including green nail polish — celebrated not only the patron saint of the Emerald Isle but a significant birthday. Pat Scarpino turned 103 on March 17.

“She gives thanks every day for all her blessings,” wrote her daughter, Judy Armstrong, in a letter. “She herself is a blessing, treating staff and visitors with kindness.”

Scarpino was born in 1915, when Woodrow Wilson was in his first term as president. She shares a birth year with Frank Sinatra.

Scarpino’s father, who was Portuguese, wanted to name his daughter Marcella, but when his baby girl arrived on St. Patrick’s Day in Sacramento, California, her Irish mother insisted on Patricia — Patricia Marcella Sousa.

“She has always loved St. Patrick’s Day, decorating her room and herself in green,” said Deacon Jim Myers, who serves at Assumption Village and brought Scarpino Communion on her birthday. The deacon said Scarpino makes it to Mass every Sunday, and though she has the aches and pains that come with living for more than a century, “she never has a complaint about anything.”

In 1945, Scarpino married her husband, Ted, who died in 2003. During World War II, she played drums in an all-women dance band and was active in many social and service organizations. In Portland she worked part time as a bookkeeper while raising her children, making time to teach English to Chinese immigrant women and drive food to the elderly homebound with Meals on Wheels. She drove for the organization “clear into her late 70s,” wrote her daughter.

Armstrong said her mother’s wit and sense of humor remain “as bright as ever.”

Deacon Myers recalled that for years during the winter, whenever he’d mention to Scarpino how cold he felt, she’d respond: “Cold hands, warm heart.”   

The deacon added that Assumption Village “is blessed by and grateful for” the Holy Cross priests, most recently Holy Cross Father Mark Ghyselinck, who minister to residents, including Scarpino.

— Katie Scott