At 92 Anne DiStabile starts her day with a long walk down the Cathedral Square hallways. It’s a habit the petite, blue-eyed New Yorker has had since her days a young woman when she often walked for miles, savoring the Big Apple’s sights and sounds. “It was always fun to watch the rich people get out of their limousines on Fifth Avenue,” she recalls, smiling. “One time I saw a couple come out in fur coats and they had a cat in the back window. It slept there while they went into a restaurant.”
One of three children born to Czech immigrants, Anne grew up in East Harlem in the heart of the city just two blocks from Central Park, It was an exciting place with plenty to do. Summers were spent playing baseball in city alleyways, or playing in parked buses in a nearby depot. Winters offered sledding in Central Park at nightfall beneath twinkling lights, and ice skating at Rockefeller Center.
Anne met her husband Salvatore, a second generation Italian, at a church canteen, a common event during war time when soldiers and local girls would meet to dance and share a meal. Anne chuckles when she remembers their first meeting. He was tall, dark and handsome, but she says she barely got a good look at him because he danced with another girl the whole night long.
“That girl, she’d come to all the dances; she loved to dance. She kept him dancing the whole time,” she says. Luckily about a week later Salvatore invited Anne to another dance. He impressed her as a smart man who was pleasant and had lots of interesting ideas. It wasn’t long till she was meeting his mother and the two were spending weekends together. They loved to walk down to Times Square on Saturday nights where they’d buy a bag of hot roasted peanuts at the Planter’s Peanut Factory and enjoy it on their walk back home. Another favorite hangout was Katz’s, a Jewish-owned deli famous for its hot dogs. Katz’s, Anne says, was a very special place, a mix of locals and travelers that still stands out in her memory.
At 23 Anne married Salvatore and moved to the Bronx to a lively neighborhood that boasted many churches and ethic grocery shops. They moved into a 6 story apartment building where they would go on to raise their two children. “I remember after I had my first baby the doctor would climb up five flights to come and see the baby.” She says.
Over the years Anne worked as a bookkeeper for various firms including the New York Mirror newspaper, taking time off to stay at home with her children when they were small. Despite not having a driver’s license (She preferred to walk or take the bus), Anne managed to take her children to see many city sights. “I took the baby stroller down Fifth Avenue,” she says. “I took them to all the parks. I loved being a mom.”
When Anne’s two kids were teenagers she and her husband divorced due to personal differences. Luckily, because they owned the apartment building they lived in at the time, Anne was able to move to a different floor, and remain in close distance of her children. With the kids nearly grown, Anne went back to work at a bookkeeping job at a nursing home. “I loved the people there,” she says.
After more than seventy years of living in and around New York, Anne moved to the Burlington area several years ago to be close to her daughter Paula. She moved to Cathedral Square in the summer of 2018 and says that though it’s been a big transition, she really loves her new neighbors. Always quick to greet others, and flash a smile, Anne also enjoys talking every day on the phone to a friend from her New York City days and her “little sister” who’s two years younger. “She talks, I listen,” she jokes. She enjoys regular visits from her daughter and her son in law Frank whom she says takes great care of her.
“I’d be lost without him,” she says. “He comes over, looks in the fridge and then comes back with everything I need.”
The days pass quickly watching the news on CNN or taking walks around the building. Anne attributes her energy and good health to all the hours she spent walking around New York City. “I can’t wait till the warm weather gets here,” she says. “I don’t like to sit. I can’t wait to get out for a walk.”