Celina Z. Perkins died peacefully at home in her assisted living apartment in Napa, California on December 17, 2017. She was 94.
Cecelia Patricia Zdanowska (her given name was later changed to Celina) started life as the youngest of six children born to Polish Catholic immigrants in the mill town of Norwich, Connecticut. Through her parents and older siblings she learned the value of hard work, domestic order, loyalty to family, and pride in her ethnic and religious heritage. She grew up as a natural caregiver, first for her beloved cats and then for her mother who died of cancer when Celina was 18.
Shaken but empowered by her caregiving experience, Celina left home to enter the nursing program at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. She graduated in 1945 to become a private duty nurse. One of her patients, a Protestant of British & Irish descent named Harry Adams Perkins, Jr., became her husband on December 30, 1950.
Harry and Celina devoted themselves to raising their only child in the suburban town of Newington, Connecticut. As a young wife and mother, Celina prided herself on being creative and economical. She sewed clothing for herself and her son, and adorned the house with homemade crafts. Her legendary pie-making skills were perfected in that kitchen.
After Harry retired in 1973, they built a cozy home next to Lower Long Pond in Belgrade, Maine. Together they enjoyed boating, fishing, and swimming in the summer, and cross-country skiing and sitting by their wood stove in the winter. During the six years they lived in the Maine woods, Celina filled their yard with wildflowers and driftwood she transplanted from the surrounding countryside and lake.
In 1980 Celina and Harry moved to Napa to be close to their son and daughter-in-law. Harry died in 1982 prior to the birth of his first grandchild, but Celina remained in Napa to become an active part of her grandchildren’s lives and to dote on the family pets. When visiting she took every opportunity to work in the yard—planting, trimming, and weeding. She seemed happiest with her hands in the dirt.
The loss of her husband when she was 58 prompted Celina to search for a larger social network. She attended sewing, art, and exercise classes and joined a bridge group. The friends she made sustained her for many years until she decided to enter an assisted living community. Her three years at Brookdale brought much laughter, companionship, and solace for the challenges of aging. She will be remembered as a faithful attendee at group activities, especially bingo and morning chair exercise.