At 108, Concord man looks back lovingly on a marriage made in heaven

 Lou Sillari blows out the candles on his 108th birthday last month.

Lou Sillari blows out the candles on his 108th birthday last month. Courtesy

Lou Sillari, above, who just turned 108, loves to tell the story of how he met Stella, his wife of 62 years. At left was their wedding day.

Lou Sillari, above, who just turned 108, loves to tell the story of how he met Stella, his wife of 62 years. At left was their wedding day. Courtesy

Stella and Lou Sillari on their wedding day in Concord.

Stella and Lou Sillari on their wedding day in Concord. COURTESY—

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 01-05-2024 4:54 PM

Modified: 01-06-2024 11:16 AM


Mentioning Stella made Lou Sillari’s tired eyes open just a tad wider.

His memories were sharp, considering. But some of his recollections of events 80, 90, even 100 years ago challenged him, causing him to pause, eventually needing his son, Peter Sillari, to fill in the blanks and add some context.

But Lou knew exactly what he wanted to say when the topic turned to his beloved late wife, Stella, even shifting his old bones slightly in bed to push his words out with a bit more force.

This is a love story. The widower is 108 years old, born during the second year of World War I.

“She was beautiful,” Lou said. “Get that picture for him.”

Lou motioned to Peter, who moved a few steps across their small living room and picked up a framed black-and-white photo of Stella and Lou on their wedding day on May 1, 1943, at the St. John the Evangelist Church.

The white flower near Lou’s lapel shone brightly against his gray suit. Stella wore an off-white suit, a few inches below her knees, and her hair was blowing in the wind.

“Anything I ever did,” Lou said, “was because of Stella.”

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Stella, once a nurse in Concord, died in 2006 at the age of 86, after 63 years of marriage. Meanwhile, Lou lives in Concord with Peter, who came home from the West Coast after his dad’s health began to decline.

He doesn’t leave his bed these days, but he walked regularly each day until just a few years ago.

He’s in rare company. A study by Boston University in 2021 showed that there was one centenarian for every 4,035 people in the Granite State. In other words, about 350 people in the entire state are over the age of 100.

The Gerontology Research Group, which keeps track of supercentenarians – people aged 110 or older – says the oldest person ever born in New Hampshire was Marie-Josephine Gaudette, who was born in Manchester in 1902 and died at age 115.

No. 108 for Lou occurred on Dec. 22, featuring the usual cake, this time with eight candles because 108 would be a fire hazard. He wore a Notre Dame football ski hat for warmth and sleeps on a hospital bed with a mattress and frame that lifts his upper body.

The couple lived most of their lives in Concord. Lou was a member of the first graduating class at St. John’s High School, the predecessor to Bishop Brady, in 1934 and was awarded an honorary diploma from Brady in 2014, when Lou was 98.

He loves the Red Sox, was rejected from serving in World War II because of his vision and worked as a lathe machinist at the Samuel Eastman Company for 40 years.

And then there was Stella. They used to see one another at dances, Lou chumming with his usual group of five (“I remember a guy named Red Murphy”), while Stella had her own group, five girls.

“They have a big dance hall and people used to come to town,” Lou said. “All the girls would go on one side and all the boys would go over to the other side.”

Finally, Lou worked up the courage to ask Stella to dance.

“They just kept dancing through the night,” Peter said.

It marked a period of stability and warmth heading into adulthood, ingredients that Lou didn’t always have.

His mother and father died within four months of each other, leaving Lou as an orphan at 6 years old. He was adopted into a good family. Meeting Stella changed his world.

“My mom meant everything to my dad,” Peter said. “My dad credits my mom with giving him his life.”

She’s been gone for nearly two decades, yet she’s been living on, in a small home in Concord.

“She was great,” Lou said. “We had fun. I could make her laugh.”