What a life Ann Beach Burow is having.
A member of Sonoma County’s large and deep-rooted Pisenti clan, she has watched Santa Rosa grow and change since 1922, when it was a farm town home to fewer than 10,000 people.
“I always loved Santa Rosa, always will,” said Burow, who as a young wife lived and worked on a dairy on what is now very suburban Summerfield Road.
A lover of politics, along with books and music and family and nature, she was in bliss through the decades that she helped to run the county elections department. She was also indispensable to the Bennett Valley Grange, long a hub of neighborly activity and site of the monthly dances that Burow would never miss.
She is now within four days of joining one of humankind’s most exclusive and deservedly revered clubs. Friday, she’ll turn 110 years old.
Fewer than one in every 5 million people becomes a super-centenarian, someone 110 or older. Scientists with the UCLA-based Gerontology Research Center track and validate the ages of members of this small group worldwide, and keep a running list of those who attain the age of at least 111.
At present that list of names numbers only 50.
Burow is almost certainly the oldest person in Sonoma County and she’s within no more than a few slots of being the oldest Californian. That distinction appears to belong at the moment to Louisiana-born Andrew Hatch of Oakland.
No birth certificate has been found for him, so the Gerontology Research Center can’t certify his age. But less than two weeks ago, he and his family celebrated his 117th birthday, which, if accurate, makes him the oldest known person not only in California but in the entire world.
Ann Burow isn’t seeking to break any longevity records, but she does look forward to the blessings brought by each new day.
“The good Lord has been good,” she said at Vintage Brush Creek, the stately Santa Rosa care home where she’s lived the past four years. “He’s been very good.”
Burow was born in Oakland on Oct. 23, 1905, to Swiss-Italians James and Rose Pisenti, who’d ultimately give birth to 14 children, 12 of whom lived to adulthood.
Growing up in Oakland and then Pleasanton, the former Ann Mary Pisenti went to school only through the eighth grade.
“Everything she did was a learning experience for her,” said one of her two daughters, Gwen Sandstrom, who’s 87 and lives in Santa Rosa.
Books certainly have been key to her mother’s education and appreciation of life. “I’ve always been a reader,” Burow said.
And she’s always been a writer, one whose wonder, gratitude and sense of humor have shone through her graciously handwritten essays and recollections. She wrote once that as a girl, “I was tall and thin and looked like 6 o’clock, straight up and down.”
Her parents moved the family to Santa Rosa in 1922, when she was 17. No one else alive has a deeper perspective of how the city has grown and transformed the past 93 years.
Ann Pisenti had just turned 19 when she married dairyman George Beach in 1924. “He was a heck of a good man,” she said.
Beach ran a dairy east of Santa Rosa with his brother, Wes. “They got along like two peas in a pod,” Ann Burow said.