WEST CHESTER (April 2) – State Senator Andy Dinniman recently recognized Gertrude Faillaci on her milestone 107th birthday as she prepares to return to the Barclay Friends Senior Living.

“I want to congratulate Gertrude on turning 107. I believe she is Chester County’s oldest living resident,” Dinniman said. “She is one tough woman and has seen a lot in her day, including living through 17 presidents and raising a beautiful family of two children, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.”

Pictured (from left to right) Gloria Bilunas, Gertrude Faillaci, and Senator Dinniman

Faillaci has been residing at Brandywine Hall since surviving the November fire that tragically took the lives of four Barclay Friends residents. She is preparing to return to her home at Barclay Friends on April 9, according to relatives.

Her daughter, Gloria Bilunas, says that while that fateful night remains etched in her memory she continues to count her blessings that her mother escaped the blaze unscathed.

“It was late and I got a call from a friend. She said, ‘Turn on the TV. I think your mom’s place is on fire,’” Bilunas recalled.

In the immediate chaos surrounding the five-alarm blaze, Bilunas and other family members could not locate Faillaci or access information on her whereabouts. Finally, at 6 a.m. the next morning, they received word that she was ok.

“None of us slept,” Bilunas said.

Fortunately, Barclay Friends skilled nursing facility, the Cotter Building, where Faillaci resided, was not directly impacted by the fire, according to relatives. The building has been restored and repaired in preparation for Faillaci and others to return.

Bilunas also thanked all of the emergency fire responders, Brandywine Hall staff, volunteers, neighbors, and West Chester University students who assisted her mother and other evacuated seniors on the night of the fire and in the following days and weeks.

“The staff, the neighbors, the college students – all came forward to help,” she said.

Fire investigators have pinpointed the location where the fast-moving blaze began and do not suspect arson or foul play, but have yet to nail down an exact cause for the Nov. 16 fire, according to reports.

“The Barclay Friends fire will always be remembered as a very sad day for Chester County,” Dinniman said. “We continue to grieve the lives lost, but we must also remember the community’s sense of resilience and renewal in moving forward.  And part of the includes continuing to honor and respect our elders – men and women like Gertrude Faillaci.”


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