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Saturday, May 15, 2010


(top right, Rosa Rio in 1934; left, Rosa Rio in 2007, at age 104)

The NY Times published Rosa Rio's obituary today. She died just three weeks shy of her 108th birthday.

Rio was a theater organist who feared that the advent of the talkies (which first appeared in 1927) would put her out of business, but she managed to fashion a career which lasted for eight decades, until last year.

One of the paragraphs read: "Miss Rio was born on June 2, 1902. Her maiden name and birthplace have been lost to time; her given name was Elizabeth and she was reared in New Orleans. She began calling herself Rosa Rio -- a name narrow enough to fit neatly on a theater marquee -- early in her career."

No one remembers what her maiden name or birthplace were? In this well-documented age, there's something almost romantic, and also sad, about that information having been lost forever.

(Then again, there seems to be some controversy about Barack Obama's birthplace, and that mystery doesn't seem all that romantic.)

What was most striking about Rio's obituary were the two pictures, taken 73 years apart. Rio is certainly one of the more vital-looking centenarians you'll ever see. She undoubtedly had had plastic surgery, but she was also vigorous enough to give concerts right up until the age of 106. She must have been doing something right, even if it was only inheriting the right genes.

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