100 years young

Centenarian attributes longevity to physical activity

Lillie Rotta was surrounded by quite a crowd when she turned 100. They were mainly family members:

* She is mother to five;

* grandmother to 11;

* great-grandmother to 16; and

* great-great-grandmother to six.

That's not even counting in-laws.

Lillie attributes her longevity to the physical jobs she did growing up and the walking she did all her life. Plus she never smoked.

"She never did drive; she used to walk forever to get places," said her granddaughter Roxanne Plotts.

Lillie moved to Pleasanton from Oakland in 1968 to be near her family. She settled into Kottinger Place in 1970, the year it opened. Roxanne lived a little more than two miles away when she had started her own family.

"When my son was born 15 weeks premature, she, at 75, walked over for two years to help me with my home," Roxanne recalled. "She'd be cleaning my blinds and my shutters."

Lillie was born in Montague, Texas, as Lillie Pellegrinelli. She grew up on a farm with her parents and two sisters and remembers picking cotton and carrying it in sacks to be weighed. The girls walked about two miles to school, rain or shine, and Lillie recalls going to church in town in a wagon pulled by horses. Her parents had an ice box and no electricity, just lanterns.

"At some point her dad bought a car and taught himself to drive and eventually her older sister learned to drive and she could drive them to school," Roxanne said.

Lillie met her husband, Vincent Rotta, at a dance in town, where his brothers played the fiddle and guitar, and he began to visit her on horseback. The couple was married and in 1944 they moved to Oakland for him to work at a sausage factory where his cousins found him employment.

"They came by train, and she was nine months pregnant with her fifth child," said Roxanne.

She worked at Hinks Department Store in Berkeley for many years.

Lillie moved into Parkview Assisted Living about a year ago, where she uses a walker to get around.

"We moved everything over there and she has a wall (of photos) for each family," Roxanne said.

Lillie's offspring now live in Livermore, Modesto, Utah and Colorado as well as Pleasanton. The extended family gathered at the Plotts house in August to celebrate its matriarch turning 100.

"Cousins were there I hadn't seen in years," said Roxanne. "A nephew came out from Texas she hadn't seen."

Happy Birthday, Lillie.

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