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Senior profile: Bingo, Seaside woman celebrates big birthday

SEASIDE — Bingo is Nancy Davi’s favorite hobby.

“It lets me get out of the house, meet people, and become friends–bingo friends!” says Davi, who last month celebrated her 106th birthday with her family and “bingo friends.”

“She will play bingo as much as three times a week,” says  Tina D’Aquanno, Davi’s daughter.

Bingo is not the only place where Nancy Davi is a winner. She also claims to be “the oldest baseball fan of the San Francisco Giants.” Davi remembers her 100th birthday, spent at Oracle Park, where she watched her favorite player, All-Star catcher Buster Posey, and “they announced my birthday and put me on the big screen.” Since becoming more home-bound, Mrs. Davi has been taping all of the team’s games and says she can’t wait for spring training to begin.

After moving to the United States from Verbicaro, Italy at the age of 14, Davi eventually made her way to the Monterey Peninsula, where she raised her family.

Davi says she lives by the expression, “Vive bene, ridi spesso, eama molto.” The Italian words hang above her fireplace in her Seaside home; they translate to “Live well, laugh often, love a lot.”

Reminiscing on her young childhood in Italy, around age 5, Davi describes her grandparents’ farm in Verbicaro, “They had sheep and goats, and my grandmother made cheese. She had a great, big loom, and I would sit next to her, and she would weave. She made all kinds of wool materials, plaids; you can’t even imagine.” She also recalls her grandmother raising silkworms, which she used to weave silk shawls.

Upon arriving in New York, young Nancy met up with her father who had moved to America after she was born, and soon began school in San Francisco, she recalls. “They put me in the fifth grade, and after two months, they moved me to the sixth grade,” she explains. D’Aquanno adds, “She had to teach herself English because, in those days, they didn’t have special classes for people who didn’t speak English,” to which Nancy replies, “It’s very hard for foreigners to go to a new country and learn a new language because you have to figure out what it means in your own language.”

“I was 17 when I graduated high school,” Davi says. However, she remembers having trouble finding a job because of the Great Depression. She adds, “I worked in a fruit cannery for two years at 17. I went to a continuation school until I was 18, and you know what I was taking? Journalism.”

San Francisco is where Nancy Davi met her future husband, Thomas Davi, a fisherman who worked the water in Monterey and parts of Alaska. The couple’s son, Tom — “just like my dad,” says Thomas Jr. — still carries on the tradition of Alaskan fishing. Nancy and Thomas Davi were married when Nancy was 37 and the two were wed just shy of 45 years when Thomas passed. Grinning, she says, “It’s a long time to be with a man.”

Davi says she worked for Planter’s Peanuts in San Francisco for 15 years, crunching numbers in the office. Reflecting on her time at Planter’s, Davi chuckles, “Things are different today. In my day, you didn’t have a calculator; you had to work it out on your own!”

Davi recalls moving to Monterey in 1951 and then to Seaside in 1953, making her a 69-year resident of the Monterey Peninsula. The fact that Nancy and Thomas Davi started their family here is what makes this area home. “I had my kids here,” she says fondly, seated with her two children. She has been a grandmother to five grandchildren and has 11 great-grandchildren.

Beyond having a large family of her own, Davi has also touched the hearts of many Seaside community members who attended Seaside High School. At the time, Seaside High was a new school, and Davi recalls working in the snack bar for about 15 years. “I enjoyed working with the kids; the bad and the good ones.” Nancy Davi retired from her work in 1979, but the most important jobs in her life have been “a housewife and a mother.”

Davi’s children joke that “There must be something about (her hometown of) Verbicaro,” explaining that she has had several cousins who also lived more than 90 years.

These days, Davi can be found spending time with her loved ones, winning bingo games, cheering on the San Francisco Giants, occasionally knitting, and browsing Facebook. “I am the most popular woman on Facebook,” she exclaims.

Davi’s advice for the younger generations is: “be happy, smile all the time, and be crazy.”