Two Centenarians Celebrate Milestone Birthdays

 March 20, 2019 by Rosalie Simmons

Ida Bersano Cesana and Rose Borne Alexander have each passed triple digits with zest. Both of the centenarians recently celebrated their birthdays with family, friends and a good time.

Ida Bersano Cesana

There was excitement and music in the air as PACE executives, staff, fellow PACE participants and family of Ida Bersano Cesana gathered in the Shirley Landry Benson Pace Center at St. Cecilia. They assembled to celebrate Ida’s 101st birthday.

Tom Vaughn, PACE marketing and enrollment manager, said that he was surprised when during Cesana’s enrollment procedure, Ida’s daughter, Elsa Cesana Yoder, told him that Ida was born and grew up in Torino, Italy, on Feb. 22, 1918.

Vaughn said that Ida lives with her daughter and family who speak both Spanish and English. Yoder assists her mother with translations and interpretations of the language. She is her mother’s primary spokesperson since she is the primary caregiver.

He said when he observed Ida at home with her family she was able to move about the house with assistance, has a great memory of past and present events and requires some assistance in handling day-to-day activities.

Yoder said that Ida is able to feed herself, but her food is prepared so that it is cut into small pieces for easier/convenient consumption and digestion.

Vaughn quotes Yoder as saying of her mother, “At a young age, Ida took great interest in dance. When she was about 16, she became a Prima Ballerina with a touring ballet company from the corps de ballet of Teatro Regio Di Torino.”

Yoder said, “During this time, she also worked as a ballet dancer for the circus, ‘Circo Feijoo,’ known as ‘Tony’s Circus’ (named after the great clown Tony Grice).”

Vaughn also quoted Ida who said that Ida often rode up and down, by train, through the coast of Italy with the circus in box cars alongside the horses. She said that since she came from gypsies she was quite used to a free-spirited life.

Vaughn continued to quote Yoder, who said of Ida, “While on the road working as a ballet dancer, Ida met a Roman soldier and they had a baby girl, Elsa.” Elsa has jokingly said that her birth was a welcomed casualty of the war.

She said, “At the age of 24, during World War II between 1945 and 1946 Ida married her husband, Augusto Cesana, an Italian soldier, and long distance race car driver who became Elsa’s stepdad.”(Vaughn quotes Elsa Cesana Yoder.)

Other accomplishments mentioned: Yoder said that Cesana used her culinary skills to open a restraint in Venezuela in 1947, and was the first woman to start a soccer team in Torino. At the age of 42, Ida had her second child, George Cesana.

When Agusto and Ida decided to move from Italy to the United States, Ida said it took seven years to become U. S. citizens. While waiting for their visa, they sent 14-year-old Elsa to live with an American family in the New Orleans area.

Ida said that she and her husband, Agusto, and their young son, joined Elsa in New Orleans in 1962.

Yoder said that Ida and Agusto parted in 1981, and Ida accepted a job in a local New Orleans restaurant followed by a job as a caregiver for an elderly woman. After the client was transferred to a nursing facility, Ida returned to Italy.

“Ida loved to travel and has been to Egypt, Thailand, Spain, Germany and other European cities,” said Elsa.

In 2014, at 96 years of age, Ida returned to the U.S. to attend the funeral of son-in-law Michael Yoder, Sr. At 97 years old she returned to Italy to get her “good wool blankets and clothes,” and at age 98 she returned to live with her daughter, Elsa C. Yoder and family.

Vaughn says “The PACE family marvels at all that Ida has and continues to accomplish.”

The Shirley Landry Benson PACE Center at St. Cecilia and PACE at St. Bosco are affiliated ministries of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Families like Ida Cesana’s are able to provide appropriate care for elderly and disabled adult members due to Catholic Charities Archdiocese New Orleans’s (CCANO) participation in the federally funded state program. The program is designed to assist families in caring for the nation’s elderly and disabled adult population. Visit

The local “Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly” (PACE) is an affiliate ministry of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO).

PACE programs are located at the Shirley Landry Benson PACE Center, at St. Cecilia, 4201 N. Rampart St., New Orleans and Hope Haven at St. John Bosco Alternate Care Center, 1131 Barataria Blvd., Marrero.

Each center provides comprehensive health care services which facilitate opportunities for elderly and disabled adults to experience a higher quality of independence as they live at home.

CCANO worked with Louisiana Legislators and business leaders to access this valuable service for citizens of the eight civil parishes of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Both PACE Centers offers participants access to care on the East and West Bank under the leadership of Executive Director Antonio Dias, Marjorie Hebert, M.S.C., PACE President and CEO and a board of directors.

Catholic Charities is one of many interdisciplinary teams throughout the nation who provide and coordinate individualized health care. PACE services can be provided in the home, the PACE center and/or other community settings.

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