Truly Born and Raised — 99 Years in Rockaway

 Truly Born and Raised — 99 Years in Rockaway

Baby Angelina (center) with her family.

By Katie McFadden

She was born in Rockaway, and she never left. On November 15, Rockaway Park resident Angelina “Angie” Intrabartola Corrigan celebrated her 99th birthday, and while that’s quite a feat in and of itself, Angie’s family says she has a special claim to Rockaway fame as the oldest person to be born on the peninsula, who never moved and still lives here today.

Upon hearing this claim, The Rockaway Times did its due diligence in seeing if any others could top it, putting out feelers in the paper and on social media for folks who may be older. Some came close, like Estelle Jaffe, but she turns 98 in February. Then there’s Nan Knebel, who turns 98 in a few weeks. And of course, there’s good ol’ Gert Hendry of Breezy Point who turned 101 in March, but Gert is originally a Brooklynite, arriving in Breezy at age 5. As it seems, Angelina’s claim just might stick. And with 99 years on the peninsula, comes plenty of memories of the Rockaway that was and nearly a century worth of wisdom.

The Intrabatolo’s stores and homes on Beach 72nd.

Angelina Intrabartola was born at Rockaway Beach Hospital on November 15, 1924, to Josephine and Damiano Intrabartolo, immigrants from Palermo, Italy. She was the fifth of six children, Giuseppe, Marianna, Maria, Stephen, Angelina and her little brother, Damiano, or Junior. Her family still has the naturalization papers for when her parents became American citizens in 1926. By that time, the Intrabartolos had been working hard on the American dream, owning their own stores right below their home at 518 Beach 72nd Street in Arverne. “My parents owned two stores, a butcher/ grocery store and an ice cream parlor/ candy store,” Intrabartola Corrigan recalled.

Angie recalls fond memories of growing up in Rockaway, in a pre-TV and Internet world. “It was wonderful. Of course, in the summertime, we have the ocean and the beach, and we went there every single day, and in the winter, we used to have big, heavy snowfalls, which we don’t have anymore, and we would enjoy the snow, make snowmen right outside the door and have snowball fights. It was a great time,” she said. And of course, there was Playland. ”We would go there all the time. As soon as you got there, you saw the roller coaster and the merry go round and the Whip and the bumper cars. We played those games with the three bottles. It was a fun day,” she said.

Angie attended P.S. 42 for elementary school on Beach 66th Street but took the bus to Brooklyn to attend high school at the Brooklyn High School of Women’s Garment Trades, where Angie says she learned your typical school subjects, but specialized in sewing.

Intrabartola Corrigan never pursued sewing as a career. After all, she was too busy working at her parent’s shops. “I had to work in the store with them,” she said. Asked if she made any money, “No! Are you kidding?” she shouted. But she never worried about a hot meal being on the table, even at times when folks didn’t have as much. “I was too young to understand the Great Depression, but my father was a grocer and a butcher, so we always had food,” she said. “I remember people did not have money to buy food, that’s how bad it was. And my father used to make bags and he would cut meat for them and get vegetables and fruit and put it in a bag for them and gave it to them, for free.”

It was a time so long ago that Intrabartola Corrigan remembers getting milk in giant metal containers, delivered by a horse-drawn carriage from Sheffield Farms. “It wasn’t even refrigerated,” she said. Luckily, the Intrabartolos had a refrigerated room as part of the store. It was a time when Angie says a bottle of soda was five cents. A trip to the movie theater, which Rockaway had three of at the time, cost just a dime. But her family was also lucky enough to get one of the first televisions. “My dad was the first to get a TV. Everyone would come over and watch TV on a 10-inch screen,” she said.

Although she never pursued a career, Intrabartola Corrigan did put some hard work in during wartime. During WWII, a neighbor drove her and some friends to the Columbia Aircraft Field in Valley Stream, where she was a riveter. “Angie the riveter, not Rosie,” she quipped. And it wasn’t long after the war when she met her husband, who had served in it.

“Raymond Richard Corrigan. He was a New York City fireman,” she recalled. “I met him roller-skating at Wal-Cliffe skating rink in Elmont. My friend Alice introduced me to him. He wanted to meet me because I was a good skater and he was just learning, so he figured I could teach him some things. I was 22 when I met him.”

Just two years later, on November 27, 1948, the couple got married. She still remembers buying her wedding gown with her mom and her aunt in Brooklyn. “May’s was too cheap, A&S was too expensive. So we went to Albach’s and that’s where I got that gown, she said, looking at an old wedding photo. “I was a beautiful bride,” she added.

Angie’s father didn’t take a liking to the red-headed Irish boy with blue eyes and freckles, but Raymond’s mom wasn’t too fond of the Italian girl either. But they made it work. The two got married at St. Rose of Lima Church. It was a Saturday, and the Intrabartolos let their customers know they’d have to pick up their meats and groceries the day before, as they’d be closed for the occasion.

Angie, now, with her extended family tree.

Although Raymond lived in Springfield at the time, Angie’s father had put his foot down about any of his children leaving Rockaway. “He didn’t want any of us to leave, so he would buy us a house right next door,” she said. “He used to say, ‘when my eyes are closed for good, you can go wherever you want, but as long as my eyes are open, you stay here.’” But that was okay by Angie. “I love Rockaway. I was born here, and I loved it. I loved it in the summer and the winter, so there was no other place that I’d rather be,” she said. “There’s no better place than Rockaway to raise your children.”

As newlyweds, Raymond and Angelina moved into a bungalow at 516 Beach 72nd Street. It’s where they went on to have four children, Raymond Jr., Eileen, Matthew and Kathleen, all born at then St. Joseph’s Hospital, the present-day St. John’s, all by the same doctor. They all lived on Beach 72nd Street until the children grew up, leaving Angie and Raymond in a house that was too big and required too much maintenance. In 1993, they moved to an apartment in Dayton Towers. While Angie went figuratively kicking and screaming, they were rewarded with an ocean-view apartment, where Angie now watches the sun rise over the ocean every morning. She lived there with her husband until Raymond died in 2002. Although it’s been 21 years, she still misses him. “He was my right arm. He did everything for me,” she said.

Now at 99 years old, Angie still lives alone, but she’s never lonely. For most of their young lives, her children remained in Rockaway, until they had kids of their own. But they didn’t go far. Kathleen and Eileen moved to Long Island, Matthew resides in Neponsit and Ray has an apartment downstairs from Angie, although he winters in Florida. But the family has expanded since then. Angie now has nine grandchildren, ranging in age from 25 to 47, two of which still live in Rockaway. And now she has seven great-grandchildren, from age 11 to the newest at four months.

Intrabartola Corrigan is the last of her siblings, and most of her friends are gone, including her maid of honor, Theresa Sabatina. Only her longtime friend Bertha remains, but she lives in Florida now. But Angie has found a group of friends within Dayton Towers that she regularly plays cards with, especially canasta. And when she’s not playing cards, to keep her mind sharp, she does the crossword puzzle each day, and watches, “Jeopardy!” Although she forgets some everyday things, Angie’s memory is as sharp as ever. She still recalls when Shirley Temple was all the rage as a young girl. “Every little girl wanted to be Shirley Temple,” she said. As a child, she remembers getting a Shirley Temple doll, and then not even a year later, her mother, who often sent gifts back home to Italy, had packed up her beloved Shirley Temple doll and sent it away, a grudge Angie held onto for nearly 90 years and brought up often, until it was rectified last Christmas, when a daughter-in-law gifted her a brand new Shirley Temple doll that now sits in front of her TV, where Angie regularly catches the latest tennis, basketball and football games.

While her husband had toyed with the idea of moving to Florida or South Carolina for the golf courses, Angie was always adamant about staying in Rockaway. “I didn’t like Florida. I didn’t like the hot weather 12 months out of the year. And I didn’t want to leave my children, they were all still here,” she said. But she did go on many travels with her husband, including to Italy three times, Ireland, Hawaii, Greece, Norway, Sweden and Denmark and upstate to Williams Lake. And after Raymond passed, she traveled with the Red Hats, a local women’s society, which went to London to march in the New Year’s Parade and Germany for the Christmas markets. But in all her travels, Angie says there’s only one place that has the best beach. “Rockaway has the best sand and beaches in the world,” she said.

Angie still recalls some local eateries she misses. “There used to be a great Jewish deli on 116th Street, Westridge’s,” she said. But now she has some new favorites, where she goes to eat with family, especially The Wharf, and on Wednesday, November 15, she celebrated her 99th birthday at the Harbor Light, where she received a plethora of gifts and flowers. “Look at all of these flowers. You’d think it was my wake,” she joked.

Fortunately for her, and her family, it was just a celebration of another year of life. “I’m lucky,” Intrabartola Corrigan said. Her children agree. “We’re very grateful she’s as healthy as she is and happy as she is,” her daughter Kathleen Abrams said. “It’s a blessing. We thank God every day that she’s healthy. She never worries, she never complains. Everyone should have a mom like Angelina,” her daughter, Eileen Olstrom added.

For Angie, 99 is just another year. “I don’t feel any different than I did when I was 89 or 79,” she said. Angie has no major health issues besides being a little hard of hearing, and needing cataract surgery about 15 years ago, which she regretted to some extent. “I looked in the mirror and was shocked. I didn’t know I had all these wrinkles!” she joked.

Intrabartola Corrigan says the secret to making it to 99 is “Everything in moderation. I didn’t overdo anything. I didn’t overdrink or overeat, just everything in moderation and that’s the secret. Other than that, I think it’s just meant to be,” she said, And to the youth, she has a bit of advice—”Live, love, laugh and be happy!”

In the meantime, Angie is living life, loving her family and waking up each day with a smile as she awaits her next big milestone. “I made a promise to my kids on my 98th birthday that I’m gonna live to be 100,” she said, adding that she wants a big party for that one. And there’s no place she’d rather be—than Rockaway.

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