Area woman turns 100 | People

The secret to a long, happy life is your attitude and to be active.

Thats the advice of a local woman who is turning 100 years old.

Yolanda (Bramante) Reilly was born on D-Day, June 6, 1922, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, the youngest of six children.

She is now a resident of the Westminster Woods Homestead facility in Huntingdon.

This remarkable lady has seen so many changes, technological developments (the computer for example), and advancements in medicine.

There have been innovations like cars, planes and space travel. Yolanda has lived through the depression, wars, and many disasters. But her attitude remains unshaken.

She has kept her love for family in her heart and her gift for music and playing the piano in her hands.

While growing up Yolanda started playing the piano at age 9.

“I was gifted with a good ear for music” she says, “we had a piano at home and all of us had the chance to learn how to play. I was the only one who took to it”.

Yolanda has spent her lifetime combining two things she enjoys, music and teaching children.

Yolanda started her teaching career in 1943.

“I taught grades 1 through 4 in a two-room school house in Massachusetts” Yolanda recalls.

“It was the first time I was ever in a two-room school, I was a city girl.”

A few years after that is was on to Philadelphia.

“I played cocktail music at the Warwick Hotel, which was very prestigious. It was one of top hotels in Philiadelphia” she said. She also directed a student musical show for WCAU-TV in Philadelphia.

She noted “That was back when TV was live, with a studio and stage at the TV station”

In 1950 Yolanda married Thomas Reilly. She taught school in New Jersey for several years and then her daughter, Kerry- Kathleen, was born.

Yolanda returned to teaching kindergarten in 1959 this time in Allentown where she, her husband and daughter lived.

“I taught by units then so we would study a subject, say like Hawaii. We would learn things about it and then do a show about some of the interesting things we learned. The students and the parents loved it.”

At the same time her music career continued as Master Teacher for Kutztown State University for 24 years. She also returned to directing television shows for kindergarteners and, in 1973, was awarded the Freedoms Award Teacher’s Medal from the Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation for teaching historic concepts through music. She had written the original production “Allentown- It’s a Great City.”

And the achievements kept coming.

The Mack Truck Company recognized her with an award for instilling civic pride in children and in 1976 she co-wrote a pageant for the Lehigh County Bicentennial which was performed at the Allentown Fairgrounds.

“That was a big production” she says, “with a cast of over 100 people.”

Her husband died a short time after that.

Yolanda retired from teaching in 1984 and moved to Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, continuing her love of music.

“The minute I hit Florida and the community I just loved it,” she said.

“I became involved with the symphony society and in 2013, I was elected a director emeritus.”

She moved to Westminster Woods in 2017.

Yolanda defines good music as classical tunes. “I also love broadway shows too.” “I’d often go to New York City to see the broadway shows.”

As for todays world she sees most of what’s available to us as a positive. “We just have so many more things available at our fingertips these days,” Yolanda said.

Speaking of the world, she’s been quite the traveler: Italy, Greece, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, the Panama Canal and she’s taken many cruises.

Any special memories from over the 100 years?

“The war (World War II). I went to college during the war. I remember all of the men in my class had to leave when they were sophomores.”

“Happy moments over my lifetime include my husband, my daughter, and my grandchildren.”

When asked how many grandchildren she has, she said, “three grown granddaughters and they are GRANDdaughters.”

As for what has changed over the years, “I think we had to do a lot more work in those days,” she reflected.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” she said and laughs when asked if we’re better off today than in the times when we “had to do more work,” as she put it. “I guess it’s the way you look at it. We’re probably better in some ways because it takes us less time to do something or go somewhere and we have more things available.”

Yolanda stays physically active, walking a lot “and I recommend that to anybody” she said. “I think thats one of the reasons of how I got to be 100.”

What does she do to help keep her mind active? Yolanda still journals every day.

She’s survived three broken hips, quadruple heart bypass surgery and Covid.

And she still shares her music talents with residents of Westminster Woods.

So if you ever have the opportunity to see her sit at the baby grand piano and play “Jealousie” or “A medley of songs from Oklahoma”, don’t miss it!

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