ST. CHARLES – Even though Dottie Brenia turned 100 last month, she refuses to slow down.
"She's always up for stuff," said Karen Tomko, life enrichment coordinator at River Glen of St. Charles senior living community, where Brenia has lived for the past year. "She'll come to the movies with us and we'll go out to lunch. She's really fun. She loves life. She goes to our walking club every morning and walks the halls with all the other residents."
To honor Brenia, River Glen officials arranged for a United States flag to fly over the U.S. Capitol building on Brenia's 100th birthday, which was Oct. 2. St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina presented the flag to Brenia along with a letter from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, as part of a celebration at River Gen on Nov. 15.
"Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit my dad, whose only 95 years old," Rogina said, in congratulating Brenia on her milestone and presenting her with the flag. "You deserve that honor."
Brenia was overcome with emotion upon receiving the flag.
"It means a lot to me," she said. "It just touches you so much."
Her brother, John Fetzko, a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Attending the ceremony at River Glen were her three children – Peter Brenia, Steven Brenia and Melanie Sokoloski.
"She's seen a lot," said Peter Brenia, who himself is 69 years old. "She worked at a Rosie the Riveter type of place in World War II and met Igor Sikorsky and Charles Lindbergh. She's had an interesting life."
He said his mother "doesn't associate herself with being old."
Growing up in Connecticut, Brenia was raised on goat milk and oatmeal, which she attributed to her longevity.
"That's the secret to living long," she said.
Her Catholic faith also has been a big part of her life.
"She did a lot for others when she could," Peter Brenia said. "She would pick up her fellow church members and take them to church. She was 85 years old and drive them all over the place. She would also give a lot of her time."