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ROMERO, Maria Filomena

ROMERO, Maria Filomena

Female 1870 - 1982  (112 years)

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  • Name ROMERO, Maria Filomena 
    Gender Female 
    Born 05 Jul 1870  Santa Barbara County, California Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Christened 11 Sep 1870  Santa Barbara Presidio, Santa Barbara, California Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Census 07 Jun 1880  Montecito, Santa Barbara, California Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    With parents and siblings 
    Biography 1870-1982  California Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Mother and daughter live to be over 110 years old 
    Died 22 Jul 1982  Hemet, Riverside, California Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Abt. 24 Jul 1982  Calimesa, Riverside, California Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Person ID I16240  1. Schwald - WA-NY-OR-TX
    Last Modified 3 Apr 2014 

    Father RODRIGUEZ ROMERO, Juan "Pedro" Loreto del Refugio,   b. 08 Sep 1844, Santa Barbara, Alta California Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Nov 1916, Montecito, Santa Barbara, California Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years) 
    Mother SANCHEZ, Maria "Viviana",   b. 02 Dec 1853, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Jan 1936, Montecito, Santa Barbara, California Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 82 years) 
    Family ID F5230  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 05 Jul 1870 - Santa Barbara County, California Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsChristened - 11 Sep 1870 - Santa Barbara Presidio, Santa Barbara, California Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCensus - With parents and siblings - 07 Jun 1880 - Montecito, Santa Barbara, California Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBiography - Mother and daughter live to be over 110 years old - 1870-1982 - California Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 22 Jul 1982 - Hemet, Riverside, California Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - Abt. 24 Jul 1982 - Calimesa, Riverside, California Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Sources 
    1. [S257] Archives - www world wide web, (world wide web),
      Santa Barbara Presidio
      #3175) September 11, 1870 - ... born July 5, 1870 under the maiden name of Maria Filomena Romero, daughter of Pedro Romero and Viviana Sanchez

      original url:
      World's first mother-child supercentenarians had California and Nebraska roots
      Copyright © 2006 by E. A. Kral
      Franciscans' baptismal entry # 3175 dated September 11, 1870 in Book III of the Baptisms at Presidio Chapel (which later became Our Lady of Sorrows Church), now housed at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library at Santa Barbara, California.

    2. [S170] CENSUS 1870 - U.S. Federal, (, page 7/13, 07 Jun 1880.
      1880 CENSUS - District 081, Montecito, Santa Barbara, California
      Pedro Romero - 40 - _ - M - Laborer
      Bibiana Romero - 28 - Wife - M - Keeping House
      Filomena Romero - 8 - Daughter - S
      Francisco Romero - 6 - Son - S
      Cliodo B. Romero - 4 - Son - S
      Bonancia Romero - 2 - Daughter - S
      Alejandro Romero - 1 - Son - S

    3. [S257] Archives - www world wide web, (world wide web),
      BIOGRAPHY - original url:
      World's first mother-child supercentenarians had California and Nebraska roots
      Copyright © 2006 by E. A. Kral

      The world's first combination of a mother and her child to both become supercentenarians was Mary P. Romero Zielke Cota (1870- 1982), born at Montecito, California, and her daughter Rosabell Zielke Champion Fenstermaker (1893-2005), born at Carroll, Nebraska. Cota lived to the age of 112 years and 17 days, and Fenstermaker to the age of 111 years and 344 days.

      Validation of their ages was accomplished by Robert D. Young of Atlanta, Georgia, a senior investigator for Gerontology Research Group, a Los Angeles-based worldwide association of scientists, scholars, and volunteers. As of October 15, 2006, its website at listed in Table BB over 1,000 persons validated to have reached age 110 or above for those who were born or resided in Australia and New Zealand, Europe and Japan, and Canada and the United States, where sufficient record-keeping is available.

      The mother, Mary P. Cota, was born July 5, 1870 under the maiden name of Maria Filomena Romero, daughter of Pedro Romero and Viviana Sanchez, according to the Franciscans' baptismal entry # 3175 dated September 11, 1870 in Book III of the Baptisms at Presidio Chapel (which later became Our Lady of Sorrows Church), now housed at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library at Santa Barbara, California.

      Her parents' marriage certificate, also housed at the Santa Barbara Mission, reveals that on July 10, 1869 Loreta Romero, bachelor of 26 years of age, natural and resident of Montecito, son of Pedro Romero and Josefa Rodriguez, was married to Viviana Sanchez, single of 15 years of age, and daughter of Ramon Sanchez and Refugio Hernandez. One of the witnesses was Jose de Jesus Cota.

      Some descendants believe that Mary's parents had been forced into marriage, with her father being a short, handsome man who eventually died in a housefire, and her mother tall in stature. They also believe the father was a don with a land grant, and that the ancestry can be traced to the Basque region of Spain. According to granddaughter Elinor Champion, who once met Pedro Romero, he "drove a black carriage like a surrey with a fringe on top, and was a happy-go-lucky man with a walrus mustache."

      Subsequent records sometimes offered varying facts, making validation of age and family history more difficult.

      The 1880 U.S. Census for Montecito Precinct, Santa Barbara County, California, enumerated on June 7th, shows under Pedro and Viviana Romero, both born in California, that Mary P. was listed as Filomena, age 8. Her four siblings listed were brothers Francisco, Cliodo, and Alejandro and sister Kionancia, and her parents were recorded as laborer and housekeeper.

      On February 9, 1889, Mary P. Romero was married to Edward Zielke in Los Angeles. On her marriage application, she listed herself as Mary Ruffoo, age 18, a native of Nebraska and a resident of Los Angeles, while her husband reported he was age 21, a native of Germany and a resident of Los Angeles.

      A note on the application indicated that the groom's parents were both German, with only the father living, and that the bride's parents were of German descent, but it was not known if they were still living. Descendants report that Mary's family was unhappy that she selected a husband from outside her ethnic group. And that while Mary knew the Spanish language, she did not use it with her own children later on.

      More than a century later, a Gerontology Research Group investigation in October 2005 found that on her Social Security Administration application form, Mary P. Cota had listed her parents as Peter and Vivian Romero. And granddaughter Elinor Champion recalled visiting Mary P. Cota about 1918 when she owned a little house across the street from a Catholic Church in Montecito. However, she has no knowledge about Mary's siblings.

      Less information has been found about the family history of Mary's first husband Edward E. Zielke, the father of her nine children. His parents Carl Ludwig and Albertine Manthey Zielke were both born at Tuchel, West Prussia, Germany in 1839 and 1843 respectively. Their son Edward was born on April 12, 1867 at Tuchel, where the family spoke German and had a Lutheran affiliation.

      The Zielke family immigrated to the United States about 1868, and was comprised of Carl, who renamed himself Charles Lewis, his wife Albertine, and son Edward. According to the 1880 U.S. Census for Illinois, Albertine was recorded as living in the Chicago area with son William, born May 1880. Later information reveals the family was also comprised of daughters Bertha and Martha.

      By 1889, the year Edward was married to Mary P. Romero, he had relocated to Los Angeles and his mother had died. Meanwhile, sometime after the marriage, Mary P. and Edward Zielke had moved to Seattle, Washington, where their first child was born in 1890.

      They then lived more than a decade in northeastern Nebraska, helping to pioneer the village of Carroll in Wayne County, and raising at least seven more children while in Nebraska. At Carroll, which had an 1890 population of 68 and 1900 population of 252, Edward worked for the Pony Express, some descendants believe, and he became an innovative businessman.

      According to the 1900 U.S. Census for the village of Carroll, Deer Creek Precinct, Wayne County, Nebraska, husband Edward was listed as age 33, born April 1867 in Germany, and wife Mary P. as age 27, born July 1872 in Nebraska. That latter information was inaccurate, since Mary P. was born July 1870 at Montecito, Santa Barbara County, California. Also listed as living with them was Edward's father Charles Lewis, age 60

      The children listed were son Frank, age 10, born January 1890 in Washington; son Edward, age 9, born November 1891; daughter Edna, age 7, born August 1892; daughter Rosa, age 6, born November 1893; daughter Edith, age 4, born September 1895; son Joseph, age 3, born May 1897; and daughter Ruth, age 1, born May 1899, the latter six born in Wayne County, Nebraska, most in the town of Carroll. In March 1902, their daughter Marjorie Marie was also born at Carroll.

      The School Census Report for District 52, Carroll, Wayne County, Nebraska in the summers of 1901, 1902, and 1903 reveal the names of their children of school age, and confirm Rosa's birthdate as November 4, 1893.

      Descendants believe that Edward E. Zielke operated a highly respected tavern. Also, he constructed a new building in 1902, opened a combination bakery/butcher shop, and occasionally traveled to nearby towns on business, according to microfilm of The Carroll Index housed at the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln.

      In the fall of 1903, he had rented to a local person the Zielke building as a restaurant. And the October 23, 1903 issue of The Carroll Index stated: "E. E. Zielke and family leave tomorrow for Stanton [located in adjacent Stanton County], where Mrs. Zielke and children will remain with relatives, while Mr. Zielke goes to Los Angeles on business, after which the family will move to Oregon, where they have a large tract of land, partly cleared and part timberland in a rich lumber country. The Index joins their many friends in wishing them abundant success in their new home."

      At the time, Edward's sister Bertha was living in Stanton with her husband Gottleib Meyer and father-in-law Louis Zielke, reported the 1900 U.S. Census for Nebraska. Bertha was listed as age 24, born September 1875 in Illinois. Six years later, there was mention in the March 22, 1906 Stanton Weekly Picket that "Miss Martha Zielke arrived Tuesday evening from Omaha, and will assist Mrs. Siedel in the millinary store."

      The Zielke family probably settled in Oregon after leaving Nebraska. It is known that Edward's father Charles Lewis Zielke was listed in the 1910 U.S. Census as living at Salem, Oregon with daughter Martha, and in the 1920 Census as still living at Salem, at the time with his second wife. He had lived beyond the age of 80, but it is not known when or where his death occurred.

      Meanwhile, Edward's sister Bertha Meyer remained in Stanton at least until the 1920 U.S. Census for Nebraska. There was no mention of her husband, but her sons were Irvin, age 19, Carl, age 17, and LaVere, age 13, all born in Nebraska. Bertha was listed as age 44, born in California.

      Mary P. Romero Zielke did give birth to Ervin, her ninth child, born in December 1904, likely in Oregon. However, relative Jackie Salonisen has materials written later in life by Mary's daughter Edna, which report that while the family was traveling by train from Nebraska (or Oregon) to Los Angeles via the city of San Francisco in 1906, they decided to continue by boat from San Francisco. But just as they boarded, their journey was made difficult at first when the infamous April 18, 1906 earthquake occurred, causing the ocean current to spin the boat around several times, and family members becoming seasick.

      While the family lived in Los Angeles at this time, Edward Zielke suffered a severe head injury after falling backwards out a second story window while helping a friend paint a house. This resulted in some sort of separation from the family, according to descendants. After authorities found Edward in a deranged condition, he was placed in what is now the Patton State Hospital at San Bernardino, where he died on August 6, 1907.

      At about the same time, Mary had taken her children to live at Santa Barbara. Within a year after the death of her first husband, Mary met Antonio Cota, and they were either married or lived together at Santa Barbara, according to the 1910 U.S. Census. By then, some of Mary's children were living on their own, and the youngest continued to live with her.

      Meanwhile, three of her daughters performed on stage at the La Petite Theatre in Santa Barbara under the name of "The Marleau Sisters." They were Edna, known as Dolly, Rosabell, known by the same name, and Ruth, known as Billie. While Rosabell left the stage, Edna and Ruth worked for the Flying A Studio until they went to Hollywood, where they got jobs as extras, played small parts, and doubled for various silent film stars such as Mary Pickford. Edna continued her career from 1922 to 1951 as a trick rider.

      By World War I, the relationship between Mary P. Romero Zielke and Antonio Cota ended, descendants recall, so she lived in Los Angeles, supporting herself with housekeeping work and other jobs. It is thought that Antonio Cota died in 1941 but little else is known about him. Meanwhile, after many years at Los Angeles, Mary then lived about ten years at El Monte, and spent the final seven years of her life with daughter Marjorie Marie Richardson Pruitt Nast at Hemet in Riverside County.

      After Mary Phil Cota died on July 22, 1982, the family reported her age as 107 in the obituary published in the Hemet News the next day. In actuality, she had lived 112 years and 17 days. Requiem Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church, with burial at Desert Lawn Park in Calimesa, San Bernardino County.

      The vast majority of the nine children of Mary P. Romero Zielke and Edward E. Zielke achieved remarkable longevity not only for their own era but also by current standards.

      According to the National Vital Statistics Report, Vol 17, No 28 (December 13, 1999), the life expectancy at birth for males in 1900 was 47.8, in 1950 it was 65.7, and in 1997 it was 73.6. For females in 1900 it was 50.7, in 1950 it was 70.9, and in 1997 it was 79.4.

      Their sons, for the most part, exceeded life expectancies for men. Edward, age 27, died, in 1918, a victim of the Spanish flu epidemic. Frank, age 69, died April 13, 1959 at Los Molinos, California; Ervin, age 73, died October 24, 1977 at Juniper Springs; and Joseph, age 86, died January 21, 1984 at San Joaquin.

      All of their daughters exceeded life expectancies for women, and four of them lived near or beyond the centenarian mark, a rare accomplishment for one family anywhere. Ruth Wilder, age 83, died May 12, 1982 at Riverside; Edna Sowards Baker, age 99, died November 28, 1991 at Hemet; Edith Keasler, age 100, died October 12, 1995 at Palm City; Marjorie Marie Richardson Pruitt Nast, age 102, died December 26, 2004 at Hemet; and as previously noted, Rosabell Champion Fenstermaker, just 21 days short of age 112, died October 14, 2005 at San Juan Capistrano.

      Rosabell Zielke's birthdate of November 4, 1893 was validated, as previously stated, not only by means of the 1900 U.S. Census for the village of Carroll in Wayne County, Nebraska and the School Census Reports for District 52 for the summers of 1901-1903 but also by an 1897 baptism record.

      She attended school through the 3rd grade and lived in a house with a basement for storaging containers of preserved vegetables, which her mother had prepared. After relocating from Nebraska to Oregon about 1903 and then to California about three years later, she was listed in the 1910 U.S. Census for Santa Barbara as living with her mother and Antonio Cota, and siblings Edna, Edith, Ruth, Marjorie Marie, and Ervin.

      About that time, too, she performed on stage locally with her sisters Edna and Ruth as part of the act titled "The Marleau Sisters," and played the saxophone.

      At the age of 18, Rosabell was married in Santa Ana to silent screen actor George J. Champion, a son of Christopher and Jennie T. Henry Champion. His mother's brother Charles D. Henry was the father of Lou K. Henry, the wife of Herbert Hoover, the 31st U.S. President. An entry on Lou K. Hoover in American National Biography, Vol 11 (1999) reports that Lou distinguished herself as a national Girl Scout leader, and her cultural interests during her husband's White House years from 1929 to 1933 gained her some renown.

      While a young woman, the petite, dark-eyed Rosabell was a gifted seamstress who welcomed changes in style. She wore suits and dresses custom made in Europe, and made and sold creative hats. While married to George Champion from 1911 to 1917, she worked at a Los Angeles bank not far from where her mother Mary P. Cota lived.

      The couple had two children--Irma Cook, who died at age 25, and Elinor Champion, who was born in 1913 at Glendale and continues to reside in southern California. Ex-husband George J. Champion became a businessman in charge of horses and their stables in the mountains of southern California for use by movie studios. He maintained a good relationship with Rosabell and her children until he died at age 67 in 1949 at Pearblossom, reported daughter Elinor.

      Rosabell was remarried briefly to William Edwards, a government worker in Los Angeles, and to Henry Hifield, a commercial artist.

      On October 4, 1922 she married printer Arthur Fenstermaker. At first, the couple lived in Los Angeles, where Rosabell ran the business, and gave birth in 1928 to son Arthur Fenstermaker Jr, who later died in 1986. They then resided from 1938 to the end of World War II in Glendale, and printed Series E war bonds. Afterwards, they lived in Arcadia, Flintridge, Pasadena, and finally the San Diego area, all the while enjoying their travels to Africa, Asia, and Russia. After 50 years of marriage, Arthur died in 1978.

      Continuing her independent mindedness and believing "there was little a woman couldn't do," Rosabell shared a condominium with her daughter Elinor at nearby San Juan Capistrano. At age 104, she dug trenches and laid sprinkler pipe for a new watering system in their backyard, and after age 109 when her eyesight was failing, she still followed the news on radio and television, and participated in discussions about national and world events.

      Throughout her life she was not ill, and offered no explanation for her longevity. Fond of gardening, she grew her own vegetables and ate little meat. Occasionally, she drank a margarita, but did not smoke.

      After Rosabell Zielke Champion Fenstermaker died on October 14, 2005 in San Juan Capistrano at the age of 111 years and 344 days, a lengthy obituary was published in the October 19 Orange County Register at Santa Ana.

      Private arrangements were made by the Neptune Society of Orange County at Costa Mesa, with the cremated remains of Rosabell placed in the Pacific Ocean near Dana Point, California.

      According to Table BB as of January 30, 2006 on the website of Gerontology Research Group, mother Mary P. Romero Zielke Cota, a native of Montecito, California, ranked as the 243rd oldest person all-time, and her daughter Rosabell Zielke Champion Fenstermaker, a native of Carroll, Nebraska, tied as the 263rd. Consult its home page at and click on the sideheading "Centenarians."

      While the rankings will change in the future as more persons become validated at age 110 or more, they will always remain known as the world's first validated combination of a mother and her child to both become supercentenarians.

      Assisting the author in research for this article were relatives Elinor Champion of San Juan Capistrano, Karen Lyons of Dove Canyon, Reverend Richard Pruitt of Manhattan Beach, Jackie Salonisen of Placentia, and Thomas H. Zielke of Redwood City, all in California; Elizabeth Carlson of Wayne County Courthouse at Wayne, Nebraska and Lynn Bremer of Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library; and Gerontology Research Group investigators Louis Epstein of Carmel, New York and Robert D. Young of Atlanta, Georgia.

      For more information about Nebraskans of unusual longevity, consult on the Internet the website of the Nebraska Health Care Association at On its home page, click on the sideheading titled "Oldest Nebraskans." A major source online is the author's report titled "Nebraska's Centenarians Age 107 Or Above--1867 to 2001," originally published as a 44-page supplement to the April 24, 2002 Crete News.

    4. [S201] AVS-Death-Burial -, (,
      Mary Phil Cota
      Birth: Jul. 5, 1875
      California, USA
      Death: Jul. 22, 1982
      Riverside County, California, USA

      Desert Lawn Memorial Park
      Calimesa, Riverside County, California, USA
      Plot: StT 273-C