Dover's Olga Galgano hit the century mark with family and friends

Olga Galgano probably never would consider herself a rare breed in any category. Like millions of others, she had a long and successful marriage, raised her children, watched over her grandchildren and contributed regularly to her church and community.

But Galgano has reached a milestone, one rarely breached by others: she turned 100 years old Oct. 8, becoming one of about 73,000 Americans to have reached the century mark.

And centenarians are becoming a bit less of a select group: as Americans become more long-lived, the numbers of those reaching 100-plus years also is increasing, up from just over 50,000 back in 2000.

None of that was on Galgano’s mind, however, as residents of Dover’s State Street Assisted Living gathered last week to mark the occasion. Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen also was on hand to present a congratulatory certificate.

Galgano was born Oct. 8, 1917, in Brooklyn, the youngest of three children of the late Adam and Anna Cybulski Zailskas. Her parents had emigrated separately from what is now the Eastern European nation of Lithuania.

While at home, the family spoke their native tongue and she often read newspapers in that language.

“My grandmother came over and lived with her sister, and my grandfather came over and lived with his brother,” Galgano’s daughter, Pat Fitzgerald, explained.

Galgano married Michael Galgano, whose parents had been Italian immigrants.

“He lived next door,” she said. “He was very nice. He had a car and took me out for rides and all.”

Although mostly a stay-at-home mom, Galgano worked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard during World War II while Michael was in the Army. After the war, they bought a home in Queens; she took a job processing passport applications, retiring in 1982 at the age of 65.

Galgano was very involved in her Queens community, often helping raise money for charity and even driving some of the local nuns to college classes. She had a love of card games, including cribbage and canasta as well as bingo.

Although Michael died in 1990, she kept their house in Howard Beach, Queens, for another 20 years before joining Fitzgerald and her family in Delaware seven years ago.

After their retirement, the couple spent many years traveling, ultimately visiting every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

“Every year, we’d spend one month traveling,” she said. With many members of her husband’s extended family still in Italy, they never wanted for a place to stay.

The Galganos also visited Russia, China, Japan, Switzerland and many others. Stateside, they often visited Palm Beach and traveled with her sister and brother-in-law.

On Oct. 8, the family, which now includes seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, threw a party to celebrate her centennial birthday. That number included one of her grandsons, who now lives in the United Kingdom and his son.