by June Portnoy
It’s not everyday you celebrate your 100th birthday, so when Natalie Zdanowicz, a resident at The Brunswick at Attleboro began a new century, her family and friends at the assisted living senior community wanted to give her a special day.
“We knew she wanted a Mass held here because she’s very religious, but we wanted to provide some entertainment that she’d really appreciate as well,” said Terry Mills, Activities Director at Brunswick.
Terry asked Natalie’s daughter and only child, Barbara Bloch, for suggestions, and she immediately mentioned inviting the Ferko String Band to come perform at her party. Ferko is a participant in Philadelphia’s annual Mummers parade, a parade that played a big part in Natalie’s adulthood when she lived in South Philadelphia.
After getting married, she lived on Front Street, just two doors from the Purul Comic Club.
“Every New Year’s Eve, my mother looked forward to watching the comics gather in front of her house and march off to the parade,” said Barbara.
Natalie grew up in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia, and Bridesburg is also the home of the Ferko String Band. Therefore, Barbara knew that this particular group of Mummers would be especially meaningful to her mother.
“When the members of Ferko heard that Natalie was from their neighborhood, they immediately accepted our invitation to perform at her party,” said Terri.
Ferko’s appearance at Natalie’s party was kept a secret until the last minute. Fifteen family members of Natalie came to her birthday party, two of whom traveled from California to be there. It was a full house of residents and family after the half-hour Mass as people came by to see what Natalie’s big surprise would be.
Natalie sat at the front of the room as Ferko entered from the back dressed in their bright Mummers attire, singing, “Happy Birthday.” Natalie’s face lit up as her favorite string band wished her a happy birthday.
As the string band played “Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me” and later performed the “Mummers Strut,” Natalie clapped her hands to the music.
Her immediate family gathered around her as she blew out the candles of her birthday cake.
Barbara, who lives in Langhorne with her husband, Phil and their daughter, Lauren, were joined by Barbara’s son, Chris Mascio and daughter-in-law, Lydia, both of whom live in Yardley with Natalie’s great-granddaughter, Ava, age six.
Ferko concluded their performance with the Mummer’s National Anthem, “Golden Slippers.”
“Our hope is that inviting the Ferko String Band has fulfilled a life-long passion of Natalie’s,” said Terry.
PHOTO CAP: Natalie Zdanowicz with members of the Ferko String Band