Ann Cvaniga is an inventor, a teacher and a pioneer of women in industry.
She also just turned 105.
A resident at Garden Terrace Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence in Aurora, Colorado, Cvaniga celebrated her 105th birthday on June 4, 2015.
The facility hosted a party for her with a table set up with photos and mementos from throughout her life. The White House sent a proclamation in her honor, and family and friends gathered around and sang “Happy Birthday” before partaking of cake decorated with blue flowers.
“All these people are here for me?” Cvaniga said. “I can’t believe it. Thank you all for coming. I stopped counting years ago.”
Cvaniga’s life is certainly one to celebrate.
Born in a community near Trinidad, Colorado, Cvaniga was the daughter of immigrants from Slovenia. Her father was a coal miner and unfortunately passed away after becoming ill from the work. Cvaniga’s mother remarried when Cvaniga was about 14, and the family moved to Indiana.
After Cvaniga graduated from high school, she got a job in Chicago to help support her family. She worked as a secretary at a small manufacturing company that made military parts during World War II, and when she wasn’t at the office, she took college classes to advance her education.
Her bosses took note of her excellent work ethic, and she was gradually promoted until she became the company’s co-owner. At the time, it was unusual for a woman to have such an advanced role in business, and she signed all her correspondence as “A.B. Cvaniga” so that people wouldn’t treat her differently by knowing she was a woman.
Sometimes, the company would get an order to make a part that the workers couldn’t figure out how to make, and Cvaniga would study the problem and design the part herself. She invented and patented several products.
During these years of hard work, Cvaniga would vacation in Colorado, and when she sold her part of the company, she moved to Denver, then to Boulder. She attended the University of Denver and earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s degree in Spanish literature.
In the 1980s, Cvaniga traveled all around the world and, closer to home, became active in community organizations such as the Symphony Guild and the Queen of Peace Catholic Church. At the church, she taught special education classes, often incorporating souvenirs from her travels into her teaching. She continued to take classes from the University of Denver until a few years ago.
Her secret to aging gracefully?
“Eat like a teenager, and keeping looking at the good-looking men,” Cvaniga said.