words by Carol King
The 115-year-old Italian-American Dina Manfredini (née Guerri) is the oldest woman in the world.
She was born in the small town of Pievepelago in Modena, Emilia-Romagna on 4 April, 1897. Dina became the world’s oldest woman after the death of 116-year-old American Besse Cooper of Georgia in early December.
Dina left Italy in 1920 with her husband Riccardo to live in Des Moines, Iowa. They went on to have four children, three of whom are still alive. She has seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren.
After Riccardo injured his back while working as a miner in Des Moines, Dina supported their family. During World War II, she cracked eggs in a food-processing plant that were turned into powdered eggs for American soldiers. She also worked in a munitions factory filling shells with gunpowder. Later, Dina worked as a cleaner until she retired aged 90, but she fibbed about her age in case people thought she was too old to work.
Dina was widowed at the age 67. Aged 110, she moved to live at the Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, Iowa, when she told the ‘Des Moines Register’: “I’m old... but I work. Work hard. I like work.”
She has not forgotten her Italian roots, and used to cook pasta and polenta for her family when she was young. A Catholic, Dina is a longtime parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in West Des Moines. Parish priest Father Tom DeCarlo said: “She is one of the most extraordinary people I know. She doesn’t hear so well anymore, but we still speak in Italian together.”
Dina is the oldest-ever recorded female immigrant. She is also the oldest Italian ever and one of the four people alive who were born during the reign of King Umberto I of Italy.