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South Shore clan celebrates its longevity

LIVING LONG: Good genes, a healthy diet, and most important, lots of love, Italian style.

That’s what’s kept the Calabro clan going strong, said Eleanor Sabini, one of nine siblings, ages 71 to 91, who gathered recently at the Trattoria San Pietro Italian restaurant in Norwell to celebrate a reunion.

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“We’re all very, very close,” the 73-year-old Sabini said of her brothers and sisters. “We have very healthy genes.”

Her parents came from Sicily, her father, Joseph Calabro, hailing from Messina and her mother, Caroline, from Palermo. They raised their family in the Merrymount section of Quincy, which was great for youngsters, Sabini said, “because it was right near the beach. We had a lot of happy times there.”

Long-living Calabros are the norm. The family’s father died at 87, their mother at 93, both of them healthy until the end.

The clan is “scattered all over, mostly the South Shore,” she said, settling in places including Quincy, Marshfield, Milton, and Brockton. All together, the Calabros have 21 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

“As children, we ate very healthy meals,” said Sabini, a Milton resident. “More vegetables and pasta than meats, and more often than not, fruit for dessert.”

They were all successful in raising their own families and finding their own careers, she said, which included civil engineering, nursing, teaching, and technology.

Theirs wasn’t a perfect family, she said, adding “It’s not like we weren’t without our problems, but you make the best of it and stick together. That’s the way we managed.”

A central component of their longevity, she said, has been a good life view.

“You have to have a positive outlook, even when things come your way that can be discouraging,” she said. “You still have to have the feeling you can manage it, move on, and be positive.”

That sense was present throughout their lives, she said.

“The times of togetherness and joy felt in our home as children carried over into our own lives,” Sabini said. “Our mother was an especially giving and understanding woman who loved us equally. In her later years, when she was failing, she would say to us, ‘Take care of each other.’ ”

Music was a huge part of their DNA as well, said Edward Calabro, 82, the middle child.

“My father required we all play some type of instrument,” he said. “He had played mandolin as a young man and used to serenade my mother. I also remember we’d play Christmas carols, which my father enjoyed very much.”

Brother Joseph Calabro, 84, played saxophone and clarinet, including in the Constabulary Band in Heidelberg, Germany, right after World War II, and later in a dance band that performed around the South Shore and Boston.

Sister Antoinette Quain, 89, played violin in the Hingham Symphony Orchestra. Edward Calabro played flute and was in the Quincy High School Orchestra. Kid brother Richard Calabro, the youngest of the clan at 71 with twin sister Roberta Vernaglia, played guitar.

“He was one of the younger generation,” Edward Calabro said, laughing.

The rest of the nine Calabros include the oldest, Jeannette Perot, 91; Pauline Anderson, 87; and Carolyn Mulholland, 76.

The Calabro kids get together for a family reunion every couple of years, Sabini said. At one, they gathered with dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and cousins, at her niece’s backyard in Bridgewater. As usual, there was tons of healthy food, shared memories, and toasts to their collective continued good health.

Which, Sabini said with a laugh, “includes a little bit of red wine for dinner.”

WALK FOR A CAUSE AT LINDEN PONDS: More than 100 people who live and work at Linden Ponds in Hingham got together for a fund-raising walk in Plymouth, netting more than $13,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Residents, staff, students, and families raised more than $8,000, with Linden Ponds kicking in $5,000.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at pkandarian@aol.com.
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