Enza Leanza

Age is Only in Your Mind

Enza Lorenza

Frances Umlauf

Age is Only in Your Mind

By Denise Milanese    Photography by Christian Lee

Enza Leanza answers the door wearing a back brace from her neck to her chin. She explains with a vibrant smile, “I just had back surgery in July so now I only have to wear it for a few hours a day.” She undoes the straps and sets it on a chair, as she escorts me into a beautiful solarium overlooking the lagoon alive with plants of every sort. Her green thumb is on display in the healthy collection of African violets, orchids and a five-foot tall angel-wing begonia amidst many others. Enza explains proudly that the begonia was grown from a cutting that her mother brought from Sicily.

Enza’s life has been a study in perseverance. Through all the challenges and moves back and forth from Sicily to the US, she refused to let it get her down. Her mother was born in the US and returned to Sicily with her parents as a child. She married in Sicily and bore three sons, only to lose them all during WWII. In the early 1950s the family moved with little Enza back to New York City. She attended PS 130 and was one of the original “latch-key” kids, caring for her younger brother after school until her parents got home from work. She hoped to attend a vocational school with a creative, artistic curriculum when it was time for high school but her parents refused to allow her to attend a school with boys, so instead, they enrolled her in Washington Irving School for Girls, where she learned bookkeeping and short hand.
She was 17 when her father decided to move the family back to Sicily in part to find Enza a “nice Sicilian boy” to marry. Her new home was in a small city surrounded by farmland, some of which was owned by her father’s family. She once again had to persevere. She absorbed the culture shock of being uprooted from New York City and landing in rural Sicily where she wasn’t allowed to go out without a family member to chaperone. She learned about the close-to-the-land lifestyle of rural life, bringing meals to the men working in the fields and canning and drying produce to sustain the family through the winter. She learned to make rope from the fibers of a local grass for her father to use to bind the sheaves of wheat, which provided the only cash income for the family.

She was thrilled to have the opportunity to develop her creative side when her mother allowed her to take lessons from a local seamstress. She learned to make clothes and create patterns, as well as how to embroider and knit. She has carried these skills with her throughout her life. As a 17-year-old, she immediately set about working her own trousseau. Her beautiful, expertly executed needlework is so exquisite that it was displayed at the local library in a recent show.

Enza eloped when she was 20. The young couple moved to the United States, where they were blessed with three sons. Tragically her husband was killed in a car accident after just seven years of marriage, leaving Enza a young widow with a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 7-month-old infant. Once again she persevered. She and her mom, who had moved back to the States, pooled their resources and bought a duplex where the family could live in one unit and use the rental income from the other unit to pay their expenses.  She attended cosmetology school and began styling hair during the day and selling jewelry at house parties in the evenings. She met and married her second husband several years later and the family moved to Long Island. Like so many Northerners, after her boys were grown, she and her husband heard about a community in the warm, sunny, snow-free Lowcountry and decided to head down to check it out. Four days later they were the proud owners of a new home.

Now Enza, who was widowed again four years ago, lives an active lifestyle that belies her age even—or perhaps especially—after surviving a bout with breast cancer. She advises, “Enjoy every moment. Age is only in your mind. Whatever trials life brings you, tighten your belt and take care of it, and God will take care of the rest.” Her life today overflows with eight grandchildren, beading jewelry, ballroom dancing, shagging, flower arranging for her church, gardening, socializing with her large circle of friends and driving her stunning black ‘57 T-bird on special occasions.

Up Close:

Still working through her bucket list that includes:
• Skydiving (piggyback style)
• Travelling the Amalfi Coast
• Living in France for a year to learn to speak French fluently.

Had an on-line dating profile that insisted, “Don’t bother to respond if you don’t love to dance.” She took the profile down when none of the respondents were deemed to qualify in the dance department.

Worked with her late husband on the frame off restoration project of the ‘57 T-bird.
A regular attendee at Pink Partini parties and is always among the most elegant ladies in the room.

A regular attendee at Pink Partini parties and is always among the most elegant ladies in the room.