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Marianna Kelley celebrates 100th birthday

By Staff | Jan 31, 2018

Last Thursday, Jan. 25, Marianna Kelley celebrated her 100th birthday, surrounded by friends and family at the Choices in Living Adult Care facility in Cape Coral.

Marianna was born in 1918 on a Dayton, Ohio, farm. She was a first generation German-American, as her mother had immigrated from Germany. Because there was a shortage of coal during that time, her mother had to ask the doctor for a prescription of coal. That was the only way they could keep their house warm, so that newborn Marianna could survive the cold.

In 1945, Marianna was working for Delco, an Ohio River Valley company that manufactured auto parts. This is where she met her husband, Tom Kelley, who is of Scottish/Irish descent. Her job was to supervise the “tool crib,” the station builders would visit to obtain tools. Marianna wasn’t allowed to distribute tools to builders between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. However, Tom thought he could sweet talk her into giving him tools, so at 12:15 p.m. he went to the tool crib and asked her for tools. Marianna refused. It was that moment that Tom fell in love with Marianna’s hard working ethic, and the ability to stand her ground. His respect grew for her, and they started dating shortly after.

Marianna and Tom got married and went on to have five children. They moved to Cape Coral in 1979. They fell in love with the area, and knew that it had great potential for housing development. Historically, this is around the same time Cape Coral experienced its big housing boom. Thus, Tom started his own construction company where he built houses in Cape Coral. Marianna assisted him along the way, doing bookkeeping and banking. Marianna was very good with saving money, and the bankers trusted her. When Tom tried going to the bank, they’d never give him a loan. So, he sent his wife, and she was able to get a loan every time, because she was so good at paying back the money.

Marianna taught her children her work ethic, about saving money and working hard. Her son, also named Tom, went on to carry on the family business after his father retired, and owns Thomas W. Kelley Custom Builders, a construction company in Cape Coral. Three of her children live in Cape Coral, while the other two live in Atlanta, Georgia, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Their names are Pat, Tom, Jane, Linda and Betty. She also has 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

During Marianna’s life, she said she has enjoyed sewing, attending Catholic church and baking German chocolate cake, which her children say is the best. However, Marcus, her grandson who lives in Fort Myers, says her milkshakes are the best.

Her children say she has been a wonderful mother, with a great shoulder to lean on. She has been faithful in everything she does.

One of her daughters told the story about how she visited her mother when she was 85 years old. During the visit, Marianna’s daughter found her in the backyard, redoing her plantings and shoveling gravel. Marianna never stopped working hard, even as she got a little older.

When asked what her advice is for how to live to 100 years old, Marianna said, “Don’t be afraid to turn 100!”

Her children said that one of her mantras is to “live life in moderation.” Marianna has walked a lot, and had a healthy diet during her lifetime. She also had breakfast every morning for 55 years with her son, Tom. She survived her husband, Tom Kelley, who passed on Oct. 7, 2003. Her children say that keeping family close is the key to how Marianna has lived to 100.

Marianna enjoys her days making art and spending time with friends at Choices of Living Adult Care at 3812 Skyline Blvd. in Cape Coral. The 18-year-old facility is run by Debbie Beavers and Sharon Jacobek, who offers a day program focused on socialization, recreation and restoration for adults with limited cognitive and physical limitations. Marianna’s family is thankful for this service, and says she’s really flourished in the four years she’s been attending. The program is intended to encourage independent living and to remain in the home environment.

At 100 years old, Marianna still resides in her own home in Cape Coral, one of the same homes that she and her husband built years ago.