Celebrating 100 active years

Antoinette Tourigney celebrated her 100th birthday on Aug. 9.

Ms. Tourigney, born in South Norwalk in 1914, has lived in Norwalk and Wilton her entire life. Her family built several houses on Coley Road, including her own, in which she has lived since 1954.

Ms. Tourigney was the first of four children born to Mary and Oronzo Ventrella. Her parents emigrated from Italy and joined several members of their family who were already living in Norwalk. The family lived on Couch Street near the train station. Her mother worked at Manhattan Shirt Company in Norwalk and her father owned a grocery store in South Norwalk.

“My mother would pick us up from school, and we used to all go over and help at the store. We did that for years, and they knew how to do it. All the relatives in my parents’ family had some sort of knowledge. My father worked at a grocery in Italy, and so he opened one when they moved here,” Ms. Tourigney said.

Ms. Tourigney and her siblings attended elementary school on Clay Street in Norwalk, near the old fire station. Upon finishing school, she and her siblings immediately entered the work force.

Although her sister went to work at Manhattan Shirt, Ms. Tourigney decided she wanted to branch out.

“I wanted to do something different. I told my family I was going to go get a job in Bridgeport, and I did. I worked for General Electric. I put together fans and lamps and did other jobs as well,” she said.

After a few years, Ms. Tourigney transferred to Manhattan Shirt, and then later to PerkinElmer, which was on Route 7 in Norwalk in the lot that now houses LA Fitness and Norwalk Hospital’s Health and Wellness Center. PerkinElmer, a health and environmental corporation that produces analytical tools and software, is still active today with branches in 150 countries.

“I worked there for over 28 years, and the company was very good to everybody. There were a lot of women — not just men — working there, and everybody was happy working. I used to do the fluorescent lights and test to see if they worked all right,” Ms. Tourigney said.

It was through her job here that Ms. Tourigney met her husband, Alfred Tourigney.

“I worked nights, so I used to have to take a train to go to work from South Norwalk. I would come home at 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning. Alfred got a job as a driver for PerkinElmer, and he started to pick me up and drive me to work. That’s how we got to know each other.

“My sister joked, ‘You should go out with him. This way, you have a ride to come home at night and get back there the next day.’ I said, ‘Where are we going to go out?’ We ended up going dancing at Roton Point [in Rowayton] and then, next thing you know, we got married,” she said.

Antoinette Ventrella married Alfred Tourigney on June 12, 1948. Mr. Tourigney, a carpenter, served in the Navy during World War II and built tables for war veterans. The couple has one daughter, Sharon, who lives in Vermont.

“When my daughter was 2, we moved into my house on Coley Road. My husband built this house. My sister Frances lived just down the street, and my brother-in-law built their house. He also built a house on Coley Road for my mother and father. My brother Peter built a house here, and one of my nephews did also,” Ms. Tourigney said.

“All of my family lived here. Sharon used to ride her bicycle up and down the hill. The biggest thing that has changed are the people. I used to know so many people. Now I’m still here and they’re all gone,” she said.

Mr. Tourigney died of cancer in 1989. Ms. Tourigney still has several relatives who live in the area, including a grandson who lived with her briefly. She visits her daughter in Vermont occasionally.

When asked how she has achieved such longevity, Ms. Tourigney merely shrugged.

“My mother lived to be 90. I guess it runs in the family,” she said.

Although some centenarians might feel entitled to total relaxation, Ms. Tourigney does not plan on idling her days away. She still does much of her own cleaning and organizing around the house.

“I just don’t like to sit,” she said.