She’s Great at 98: Family, Friends Salute Kay Stec at a Special Birthday Celebration

They came from the South Shore, the North Shore and as far away as New Hampshire to take part in a caravan of cars led by a Chelsea Police escort.

The simple but sincere message on a special day: “We love you, Kay Stec, and Happy 98th birthday.”

And Kay Stec, a beloved lifelong Chelsea resident, well-known at the Chelsea Senior Center where she runs the bingo games, loved every minute of the celebration. Katherine “Kay” Stec and her oldest of three daughters, Catherine Stec, a 1965 CHS graduate and former state investigator, looked out over the group of family and friends gathered below as Kay’s appreciate smile lit up all of Admiral’s Hill.

Daughters Patricia Stec Grabowski  a graduate of Boston State and the head of the foreign language department at Abington High School, and Susan Stec Bellofatto, a UMass/Amherst graduate and a wound care nurse at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, led the large contingent of family who turned out for Kay’s unforgettable day. Kay also has four grandsons who think the world of her. Friends and neighbors on Admiral’s Hill also wished her a happy birthday from afar.

Born on Beacon Street

Katherine Emanuella (Barbieri) Stec was born in a home at 27 Beacon Street. Her father, Vincenzo Barbieri, who had arrived from Italy, owned Jimmy’s grocery store at the corner of Tremont and Beacon Street. Her mother’s name was Michaelina Barbieri.

She has a sister, Marie Diamond, who also lives in Chelsea, and a brother, John Barbieri, who lives in Danvers. She also had a twin sister, the late Felicina Mullen, a sister, the late Angelina Navoy, and two brothers who were war heroes, the late Matthew Joseph Barbieri, a World War II veteran, and U.S. Army Corporal Francis Barbieri, a World War II veteran for whom the Barbieri Sons of Italy Lodge was named. There is also a square in Chelsea named in honoring of Francis Barbieri.

Active in Local Organizations

Stanley and Kay Stec were active in the Knights of Columbus among other local organizations. They were married at Saint Rose Church and shared 69 years of marriage before Mr. Stec, who was a World War II veteran, a merchant marine and worked at Texaco, died in 1991.

Kay attended Shurtleff School, the same school that her daughters attended. She became a quite active member of the PTA, planning and organizing fashion shows, cake sales, talents shows and other events and appearing on stage with Kay Dwyee and PTA President Connie Santagate Landers and other notable parents.

“My mother was very involved with the PTA,” said Catherine Stec. “She used to have turkey dinners for the teachers and strawberry festivals and my mom made clothes that sold at fundraisers.”

Kay worked at her father’s grocery store and later in production at a local factory.

Still Enjoying Life in Chelsea

Kay Stec is living on Admiral’s Hill. That’s where the parade was held on April 29. All the Diamond and Barbieri and Mullen cousins were present for the party.

Nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews showed up. Kay’s niece, Lisa Diamond Zullo, was one of chief organizers of the parade.

Senior Center Director Tracy Nowicki brought the greetings of the seniors. The great baseball player and candlepin bowler, Bobby Kwiatkowski, a cousin, was a guest.

“My mother loves Chelsea,” said Catherine. “She’s lived in the same neighborhood for her entire life. The three sisters lived within one block on Beacon, Pembroke, and Medford Streets.”

She loved shopping in the stores on Broadway, especially on Friday nights.

“That was the place to be,” said Catherine.

She has been a popular and personable staple at the Chelsea Senior Center for the past 25 years, displaying a catchy, fun-loving style and filled with energy. Previously, she was a member of the Golden Age Club at the Chelsea YMHA, enjoying a friendship with Jenny Balicki.

“All the Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners were at my mother’s house,” recalled daughter Catherine.

What has been the secret to Kay Stec’s longevity and vitality.

“Keep moving, work hard – my mother’s always worked hard and kept moving, she’s always stayed involved in things, she socializes, she’s not just sitting.

“And she’s the best mother in the world,” concluded Catherine, speaking on behalf of her sisters. “And the grandkids just love her. She’s just so kind and loving to everybody.”

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