Andover Resident Mary Bertetti Turns 100 and Bonds With Students

On Non Sibi Day in September, participants from the Andover community all over the world connected with people they otherwise would have never known. One new face was Mary Bertetti, a resident of an assisted living home in Andover called Marland Place. Throughout her 100 years, Mary has played a variety of roles – sister, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Mary is currently the oldest resident of Marland Place. Two of her grandsons, Scott and Stephen, graduated from Phillips Academy. Scott Bertetti ’84 graduated Cum Laude and received the Best Translation in Caesar Award. He is now a product manager for Bayer A.G. and lives in New Jersey. His younger brother, Stephen Bertetti ’88, was an M.V.P. in gymnastics and is now a teacher of World History at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Scott and Stephen’s brother Richard, who is now a dentist in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, graduated from Andover High School. Mary was born on October 6, 1908 in Scotland as the youngest of six children – two boys and four girls. Mary said that her fondest memory of Scotland was going to school, where she earned excellent marks despite the fact that, according to Mary, schooling in Scotland was much more difficult than it was in the United States at that time. However, Mary remembers sadder times from her years in Scotland as well. Her mother succumbed to cancer when Mary was only 10 years old. Soon after, she moved to the United States with her oldest sister, Violet, and her sister’s husband, Robert, in 1922 at the age of 14. The three first settled in Benld, Illinois, a small town with a population of less than 2,000, but they soon moved to a different town three miles away called Gillespie, with a population of under 4,000 people. They moved to Gillespie for its coal mines, where Robert worked. The mines in America were safer than the mines in Scotland, according to Mary. Many Scottish immigrants had settled there as well. Mary began attending high school in Illinois and graduated in the class of 1926. Had she stayed in Scotland, she would have finished her schooling at age 14. Immediately after graduation, she passed a county teacher’s examination and earned her teaching certificate. She became a third grade teacher in the fall of that same year in the Benld School. Mary remembers her students as being “well-behaved” and recalls that many of their fathers had come from other countries to better their lives by working in the mines, just as she, Violet and Robert had. During her six years of teaching, Mary attended Illinois Normal School every summer, today’s equivalent of a university. At the time, women were not permitted to teach once they got married, and so she had to quit teaching after six years when she eloped with Louis Bertetti, in a small ceremony on July 4, 1932 in Bunker Hill, Illinois. Louis’s older brother, Frank, and Mary’s friend, Lola, were the only two attendants. When asked if she was glad to be married her reply was an instantaneous, “Oh yes!” She added with a smile, “I married an Italian.” When asked if her husband was a good cook, she simply replied, “I did all the cooking.” For their honeymoon, Louis planned a trip “all the way to California.” The trip was a month long, and they made numerous stops at landmarks such as the Grand Canyon along the way. According to Mary’s son, David, she had never been on a trip before. “It was an adventure at that time,” David said. “The roads weren’t paved and the concept of motels was just beginning.” Mary and Louis were married during the height of the Great Depression but were better off than most because Louis owned an appliance store. Violet, Robert, and their son, Bobby, came to live in Mary and Louis’s basement because the mines had closed. Many banks shut down, and most of the mines decreased their hours of operation to one or two days a week. “Times were tough,” Mary said, “[but because Louis had a job,] it didn’t affect me too badly.” Mary and her family eventually made it through the Depression, and in 1937, Mary made her only visit back to Scotland, the place that holds her favorite memories, she said. The very next year, Mary and Louis’s only child, David, was born, and soon enough, Mary was by her daughter-in-law Sandy’s side as some of Mary’s grandchildren were born. Mary moved to Andover in May of 2005, and lived at the Windgate Nursing Home for a month, but when they deemed her “too independent” to live there, according to Sandy, she moved to Marland Place that June. The residents and staff at Marland Place know Mary as “Speedy Gonzalez” because she walks so fast, according to Sandy. Mary’s favorite part of Marland Place is being able to see her family. Sandy and David visit her almost every day, and Mary said, “I’ve always lived in a fairly good place.” Mary recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Despite this milestone, Mary’s wish is simple – “good health,” she said.