CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – There was a 70th birthday party Friday evening in Canfield that took on a special significance.
Boardman’s Francine Aulisio was born with a disability that her family doesn’t even have a name for. She wasn’t supposed to live long. But because of medical advancements and the love of her family, Aulisio has made it well into senior citizenship.
Yellow roses were among the gifts Aulisio received Friday evening at her 70th birthday party at Canfield’s A La Cart Catering.
Reporter Stan Boney: “How many people are going to be here tonight?”
Aulisio: “Um, about, I’d say about…”
Boney: “About 100 people?”
Aulisio: “Hundred people.”
Boney: “You excited to have a big party?”
Aulisio: “Yeah, I’m so excited.”
Aulisio’s sister and primary caregiver is Sandy Russell.
“When my parents were alive, and when Francine was first born, they were told she would live to be in her 20s,” Russell said.
“Fortunately, we’re bridging that gap,” said Lynn Seekford, a 36-year veteran of the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “If I saw just a name and the age of 70, it would make me feel good that someone with a disability is turning 70.”
Seekford cited three things that have led to longer lives for the disabled: more awareness and inclusion, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and advancements in medicine.
“So people are people, we are all one. So my disability should not afford me any less treatment than a person without a disability,” Seekford said.
Aulisio’s care started with her parents, Chick and Julia Aulisio, who were among the founders of what later became Austintown’s Leonard Kirtz School for people with developmental disabilities.
“At that time, Mahoning County was a leader in special needs,” Russell said.
When her parents died, Aulisio moved in with Russell and her husband Jack.
“She is very pleasant, she’s kind, she’s giving, she’d determined,” Russell said.
“You can’t imagine someone so special,” said Barb Ripley, Aulisio’s caregiver for eight years.
Ripley tears up when talking about Aulisio.
“She really does have a wonderful life and I think that’s part of why she has survived so long,” Ripley said.
Boney: “Well, happy birthday to you.”
Aulisio: “Well, thank you very, very much.”
Russell says Aulisio recently dealt with two major bowel obstructions and was really sick. Aulisio started to say the Our Father, which Russell didn’t even think she could do by herself, but she did, and she survived.