"I feel so liberated now, I feel like I'm alive," Lorraine Pirrello, a former mezzo soprano with the Metropolitan Opera chorus in New York City, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue

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When a trio of birthday girls were turning 100 within a week of each other, they raised glasses of champagne to the moment at their home in the Atria Senior Living community on Manhattan's Upper West Side — and gave thanks for making it through the COVID-19 pandemic and to the centennial mark.

"I think I was born under a lucky star," Ruth Schwartz, who hit the 100-year milestone on June 15, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "We've gone through this together. I'm just thankful I was here to get a vaccine."

The June 8 celebration for Schwartz, Edith "Mitzi" Moscou and Lorraine Pirrello reunited them with family and friends after they were fully vaccinated — and following over a year of being confined to lockdown.

"When we were confined for all those months, it really was horrible, but it was necessary," says Pirrello, an avid bridge player who retired after 20 years as a mezzo soprano with the Metropolitan Opera chorus in New York City, then took up tennis in her mid-60s and played well into her late 90s.

100th birthday celebration at atria senior living
Ruth Schwartz, left, with Edith 'Mitzi' Moscou, center, and Lorraine Pirrello
| Credit: Courtesy Atria Senior Living

On Pirrello's birthday, June 18, she met a group of friends for a restaurant celebration. "I feel so liberated now," she says. "I feel like I'm alive."

In June, Schwartz, a retired teacher of Braille to the blind and special education, saw her 2-year-old great-grandchild — her fourth — for the first time, and her son from California, whom she last saw two years ago.

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"It was fabulous; I was so thrilled he was able to come," says Schwartz, who filmed a video in January urging her co-residents and others to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

On her actual birthday, Schwartz and some of her extended family went out to dinner, where she ordered white sturgeon topped with caviar. "I felt like I was living again," she says. "It was a great experience."

Moscou, born and raised in Brooklyn, where she helped run her father's furniture business and raise two daughters with her late husband, an attorney,  looks forward to once again visiting museums and attending concerts.

"It has been a joy to be connected with these lovely people," she says of her fellow centenarians, who were thrown several parties at the Atria through their birthday month.

And while Pirrello is enjoying the hoopla, she also doesn't like all this attention paid to her age: "I wish," she says, laughing, "people wouldn't remind me so much!"