Norwalk woman surprised with 100th birthday party

Rosie Viega with her neighbor, Judy Alvarez. Photos by Raul Samaniego

Rosie Viega with her neighbor, Judy Alvarez. Photos by Raul Samaniego

NORWALK – One of Norwalk’s matriarchs celebrated her 100th birthday with the traditional cake and sweets with friends along with a Norwalk touch of a full mariachi band and serenade on Oct. 22.

Rose “Rosie” Viega turned 100 on the 23rd of October, but her neighbors decided to throw her a bit of a pre-birthday surprise party, complete with tears, cakes and of course, a Mexican mariachi band to play some familiar tunes including “Happy Birthday” in both the English and Spanish version, “Los Mananitas.”

Her neighbor and friend, Judy Alvarez, along with fellow neighbors Juan Carlos and Janis Poole, thought it would be great if the neighbors could do something special for the lone centenarian of the street.

They conspired and gathered a couple dozen neighbors who walked down the street following a blue clad band of Mexican mariachis.

Rosie was visibly moved as she wiped tears of joy for she loved all things Mexican.

As a matter of fact, Rosie remembered, “I love to visit my neighbors who are all Mexicans.”

“I learned to make tortillas and loved [refried] beans.”

Having lived in the central Norwalk neighborhood located near Los Alisos Middle School, she remembered coming here after living on a farm near El Centro California a few miles from the Mexican border near Mexicali.

Her neighbor of 60 years, Jim Honodel, reminisced fondly of the neighbor he called, “the matriarch of the street.”

He recalled her daily morning walks where she could be counted on like clockwork. It was during one of these walks where Rosie recalled being robbed as she made her regular route.

“That was several years ago,” she commented.

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Now, while she tries to get out as much as possible, some of her neighbors escort her whenever they can. She uses a metal walker, but her spunk is still evident when you speak with her.

In an interview before the musicians arrived, Rosie spoke proudly of her husband, Tony, who passed away about 10 years ago, of his service record during World War II and the not one, but two Purple Heart ribbons he received for being wounded in action.

Altogether, there were several generations of Norwalkians present for her 100th birthday, from infant twins of Leili Romero to youngsters like Judy Alvarez at 72.They were joined by neighbor Maria Chapin who was sporting her favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Asked what was the secret of her longevity, Rosie simply replied, “We were homebodies. And of course, working.”

Rosie recently voted for the first time in over 10 years and, well, let’s just keep that secret for now.

Happy birthday, Rosie!

Raul Samaniegofeatured