From Spit to SNPs: Decoding My DNA


A few years ago I spit a small amount (about two tablespoons) of my saliva into a specimen collection tube provided in a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing kit that I ordered through Ancestry.com. My goal was to learn about my ancestors’ through their genealogical beginnings and follow a familial chain of genetic links from generation to generation. Initially, I was disappointed with my scant results and what to me were already obvious findings. That is, that 77 percent of my ancestors originally hailed from Great Britain and Ireland–something I already had discerned from handed down family history and my own 35+ years of genealogical research looking back and identifying family branches across many generations of ancestors. Next came Ancestry.com’s sharing of likely genetic family matches through their own standards for confidence ratings based upon thousands of DNA tests purchased. As the growing number of persons getting tested grew, genetic scientists were busy decoding DNA into SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which occur normally throughout a person’s DNA. In fact, they occur once in every 300 nucleotides on average, which means there are roughly 10 million SNPs in the human genome.

Recent and rapid scientific, forensic, and technological advances in DNA analysis and the increased understanding and use of these DNA studies has brought forth even more relevant and interesting information about me and my family that goes beyond the former traditional genealogical links to my past.  In fact, studying these SNPs that make up genetic differences has proven to be very important to broadening my understanding of our family’s health issues. These studies also have helped medical geneticists discover how SNPs can help predict individual’s responses to certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors such as toxins, and risks of our developing particular diseases. SNPs also can be used to track the inheritance of disease genes within families.  Along this short but fast-paced trek into DNA I have been given new proof of more familial relationships than I had ever been unaware of and have discovered some family members that I hadn’t seen or heard from in years.

Before these new DNA discoveries, when visiting doctors or discussing family health conditions among others, I relied upon personal histories and documentation of conditions, diseases, and  causes of death.  Now, moving forward I can potentially use these new genomic analysis results to look at calculations of risks for genetic health conditions and potentials to increase my quality of life and have a clearer understanding of my inherited conditions and propensities to specific diseases.

So, a few days ago, I simply Googled “advanced analysis of genetic data,” which led me to:  www.impute.me.  Next, I attached my DNA test results from Ancestry.com that I received a couple of years back to their form and emailed them.  Just two days later, free of charge, I received a return email that gave me a web site address so I could download my personal imputed genome analysis file.  They also provided their web site address to modules that would help me explore specific findings of my genome analysis.  Absolutely interesting and amazing data!

On impute’s site appears a GWAS (genome-wide association study) Calculator module, among other modules.  The GWAS module focuses on associations between SNPs and traits like major human diseases. By just entering my assigned unique genome ID, I was able to see if any variant within my SNPs was associated with a trait; in this instance: Acne. The results showed 13 SNPs in my genome (from Navarini AA et al (PMID 24927181), which were reported to be associated with severe Acne.  And, the narrative included a genetic risk score for this trait that “was higher than 36% of the general population. This is a fairly average score.”  The chart below shows 5 of the 13 SNPs examples present in my DNA that present a risk for severe Acne.  I filtered the SNP-score column (fifth column) to display in descending order so you could see my first four SNP scores and reported genes (last column) that resulted in this risk for Acne. Note the fifth row (and, similarly, the remaining 8 rows not shown) indicated a “0” SNP-score.  This is the kind of presentation given throughout this module to describe my risks among about hundred traits provided in the GWAS calculator.

Looking more closely at my GWAS Calculator and appearing before my eyes were confirmations of the presence of specific diseases that exist(ed) among various family members and the higher risk percentages of my having these same diseases. For example, I have a 76 percent higher than the general population risk of being within the Autism spectrum disorder, adhd, bipolar, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia–some family members have suffered from some of these maladies, but I can’t say that I have personally; a 52% higher than the general population risk of having Cardiovascular Disease; an 82% higher than average risk of food addictions; a 99% higher than average risk of having freckles (if you know me, you know I do or did); then there were the risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and allergies, restless leg syndrome, and hip osteoarthritis (75% higher risk than the general population–all me! And the list continued.

BUT . . . Just how much of who we are, our strengths, capabilities, and limitations is determined by our DNA and genetics?

The newest studies of DNA suggest that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in who I am, what I look like, my singularities or uniqueness, and my biological, mental, intellectual and physical conditions and capabilities.  Studies suggest that multiple genes are involved, so our inheritance patterns are not straightforward. For example:

  • A person’s fingerprints are unique as you know and are based on the patterns of skin ridges (called dermatoglyphs) on the pads of the fingers. Dermatoglyphs develop before birth and stay the same throughout life. The ridges begin to develop during the third month of fetal development, and they are fully formed by the sixth.The basic size, shape, and spacing of dermatoglyphs seem to be influenced by genetic factors. Studies suggest that multiple genes are involved, so an inheritance pattern is not straightforward.
  •  A child’s eye color often can be predicted by the eye colors of his or her parents and other relatives.   In fact, both my parents and my siblings have blue eyes; my grandparents had blue eyes; and most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (direct relatives) have blue eyes.   Yet, genetic variations sometimes produce unexpected results.  There are several disorders that can affect the color of our eyes.  One of these examples is ocular albinism characterized by severely reduced pigmentation of the iris.  This causes very light-colored eyes and significant problems with vision.
  • Another condition called oculocutaneous albinism affects the pigmentation of the skin and hair in addition to our eyes. Both ocular albinism and oculocutaneous albinism result from mutations in genes involved in the production and storage of melanin.
  • Hand preference is the tendency to be more skilled and comfortable using one hand instead of the other for tasks such as writing or throwing a ball. It was initially thought that a single gene controlled handedness. However, more recent studies suggest that multiple genes, perhaps up to 40, contribute to this trait. Although the percentage varies by culture, in Western countries 85 to 90 percent of people are right-handed and 10 to 15 percent of people are left-handed and then there are those who have this uncommon trait and are known to be ambidextrous.  They interchange hand preferences depending upon a task.  All the people in my family are right-handed–except for me!  I may have been right-handed at birth, but when I was 18 months old I received second and third degree burns all over my body from a spill of hot bacon grease.  The only part of me that wasn’t bandaged for months on end was my left hand.  I guess like other creatures, I adapted to my situation.  Or, just maybe my left-hand preference is related to differences between my right and left halves (hemispheres) of my brain. Our right hemisphere controls movement on the left sides of our body, while the left hemisphere controls movement on the right sides of our body.  These same studies on hand preference suggest that at least some of these genes help determine the overall right-left asymmetry of the body starting at our earliest stages of development.
    • For example, the PCSK6 gene has been associated with an increased likelihood of being right-handed in people with the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia. Another gene, LRRTM1, has been associated with an increased chance of being left-handed in people with dyslexia (a condition caused by a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols and causes difficulty with reading and spelling).

Is the probability of having twins determined by genetics?

The likelihood of conceiving twins is a complex trait. It is probably affected by multiple
genetic and environmental factors, depending on the type of twins. The two types
of twins are classified as identical and fraternal.  My genealogical research shows twins and even triplets go back generations on both my paternal and maternal sides of my family.  My maternal great-grandmother had three sets of twins among the 13 children she birthed –extremely rare and perhaps unprecedented.  And, yes, I am happy to say that our grandson is a fantastic father of 5-year-old twins – a girl and a boy.

So, did I get my blue eyes and freckles from my mother or my dad? Where did I get my fearless personality and the absence of a talent for singing, as much as I love to sing? Did my intellect come from my mom’s two X chromosomes, or was it predetermined by my genes? It’s still not clear to me how many of my physical characteristics are purely hereditary, and my genetic waters get even murkier when it comes to nature vs. nurture factors like behavior, intelligence, and personality. This argument has never really been won.  So, let’s leave it at this:  we do not yet know how much of what we are is determined by our DNA and how much is contributed by our life experiences. But we do know that DNA and life experiences each plays a part.

 

She’s Still Mom–Even With Alzheimer’s


In December 2010 after a fall on the sidewalk and a hit to her head and face, doctors ordered a CT (computerized tomography), scan of mom’s brain. This CT scan was the first confirmation that mom had mild Alzheimer’s disease.

alzheimers-awareness-brain-scan

This was also about the time that mom had driven herself to church (just three miles away and only a couple of turns) and got lost trying to drive home.  And, about the time when mom and I had our first ever argument–and it was over next to nothing.

In fact, we have since learned that Alzheimer’s begins with changes in the brain that are happening while people are still cognitively normal, decades before any signs of memory or thinking problems. A person diagnosed with any one of the 10 types of Alzheimer’s and dementia goes through 7 stages that affect the quality of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s live four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on their other health factors.

So here we are, entering our seventh year after mom’s diagnosis.  But the real reason I sat down to write this post was to give thanks for the good day that mom and I spent together yesterday.  It began as a typical Thursday.  Helping her select clothes and get dressed, combing her hair, and giving her time to apply makeup and, of course, waiting on her repeated visits to the bathroom before leaving and switching her home oxygen to her portable oxygen and then helping her walk to the car.  And, of course, observing the “goodbye kiss” ritual that she and dad never fail to forego before leaving home without the other.

Bob had taken mom to and from her 10 a.m. hair appointment as he always does and we had eaten lunch together as a family as we usually do.  Next, it was off to mom’s hematologist  appointment to check the status of her iron (she suffers from iron deficiency anemia, too, and has been receiving treatment for this for about 15 years).  On our 20-minute ride to her appointment, mom and I typically chat about the beautiful or sometimes rainy days.  She teared up over seeing a deer that had been hit and killed by a car and was laying just off the side of the road.  Once inside the reception area she became very socialable and we enjoyed a philosophical conversation with another patient while they waited their turns to see the doctor.

Several nurses came and went while we were inside the examination room.  Nurse Chris escorted us into the room and weighed and measured mom.  They struck up a lively conversation and we all had a few laughs over just little things that came up; e.g., how mom has gone from 5’2″ to just 5′ and 1/2.”  We sang a few lyrics from the song “5’2″ eyes of blue, could she love, could she woo,” has anybody seen my gal?”

Mom also played a guessing game with Nurse Janice about their ages and similar life events when they each had attended elementary school.  (Neither of us would have guessed that Janice was the age she revealed.) When asked, mom also told Nurse Chris that she didn’t know if I thought of her as my best friend, but I was hers and that she could always count on me–a very special moment. I reassured her that she was my best friend, too.  And, as a mother always does, she added that, in fact, she has three grown children and she loves and is proud of them all.

Also in keeping with her norm (pun intended–short for Norma), when we’re leaving the examining area, mom always says goodbye to all of the nurses.  They told her how cute she is and to take good care of her “feisty” self.  She told them that she would and added:  “My husband and I go dancing every Saturday night at the Knights of Columbus.  We just love to dance.  And as long as we both can still breathe, we’re going to keep on dancing.”

Although they used to attend regular dances at the Knights of Columbus, they haven’t been able to dance in years.  But, on their granddaughter’s wedding day they put down their canes and walkers to dance this dance on February 21, 2016.

On our return trip home mom was looking at all her wrinkles and the bruises on her arms and hands (she bruises easily from her blood thinning medicines).  She said if she didn’t know better she would think that she had punched my father–and then she giggled and went on to say:  “You know,” your dad and I have been together since we were young teenagers and met when we started our part-time summer jobs at ages 14 and 15.”  “We have lived a very long life together, have had many great times and some difficult times but sometimes he can be just so irritable and cranky–we even used to call him “Cranky Frankie,” but, “I love that man!”

Yes, I am thankful for all the years that the Lord has allowed me to spend with my parents–the great times and the difficult times, and pray that when their time comes to an end here on earth that He will take them swiftly to end their daily suffering by being debilitated by Alzheimer’s.

I leave you with the following for those readers who have been fortunate enough not to have Alzheimer’s affect their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Some Facts about Alzheimer’s

Our Ancestors’ Died From What?


Death Certificates Validate Our Lives

The primary purpose of a death certificate is to explain how or why people died. The only thing we know for sure is that people died because they were born; because they were mortal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that roughly fifty million people in the world this year will die.  This figure includes every fatality in every developed nation on earth. Yet, only about half of all deaths will be recorded with a death certificate. The other half of the world’s people will die in the poorest of places, which maintain no end-of-life documentation.

Before modern death certificates, England, in the early 16th century, had a form known as the Bill of Mortality. No earlier civilizations kept track of their people’s deaths. However, church records of baptisms and burials and recordings of these events by family members within their family bibles offer good proxies for formal records of births and deaths.

Other Vital Statistics Information

The registration of births, marriages, and deaths has a long history in the United States, beginning with a registration law enacted by Virginia in 1632 and a modification of this law enacted by Massachusetts in 1639. Later, when the U.S. Constitution was framed, provision was made for a decennial census but not a national vital registration system; this latter function remained with the states. To obtain national data, the decennial censuses in the latter half of the nineteenth century included questions about vital events, but the method was recognized as inefficient and the results as deficient.

Deaths Registered in Harwich, MA, for the Year 1870

The copy below of a page from the death registry of 1870 in Harwich, Barnstable County, MA, includes one of my ancestors, “Betsey Doane,” who died of “childbirth fever,” soon after giving birth.  “Childbirth fever,” is explained later in this post.

Death Records - MAAccordingly, in 1902, when the U.S. Bureau of the Census was made a permanent agency of the federal government, legislation authorized the Director of the Census Bureau to get, annually, copies of records filed in the vital statistics offices of those states and cities having adequate death registration systems and to publish data from these records. A few years earlier, the Census Bureau had issued a recommended death reporting form (the first “U.S. Standard Certificate of Death”) and requested that each independent registration area adopt it as of January 1, 1900. In 1915, the national birth-registration area was established, and by 1933 all states were registering live births and deaths with acceptable event coverage and providing the required facts to the Census Bureau for the production of national birth and death statistics.

In 1946, responsibility for collecting and publishing vital statistics at the federal level was transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service, first in the National Office of Vital Statistics and later (1960) in the NCHS. In 1987, the NCHS became part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lives, Deaths, And Medicine Over The Past 300 Years

For over two centuries doctors have defined people’s medical conditions like burns, asthma, epilepsy, and angina–terms still familiar to us today. However, they also used terms for other commonplace causes of death that we may not recognize today. For instance: ague (malaria), dropsy (edema), or spontaneous combustion (especially of “brandy-drinking men and women”).  Sometimes you might see Causa Mortis Incognita, which means the cause of death was not known and the doctors  wrote it in Latin and not admit in English they didn’t have a clue! Happily, many early 19th and 20th century health conditions that led to death have all but disappeared not only from doctors terminology but the diseases and illnesses themselves, thanks to dramatic advances in hygiene and medicine.

Yellow fever was the noted cause of death on the majority of 5,000+ death certificates issued in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between August 1 and November 9, 1793.  This virus, like malaria, and today’s Zika virus, was carried and transferred by mosquitoes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women died needlessly following childbirth from puerperal fever.  Unwashed hands and medical instruments introduced bacteria into women’s uterine tracts triggering this killer infection.

Before the mid-20th century, my family and I were fortunate enough to be among the first people in the United States to receive vaccines to fight smallpox, polio and measles – diseases which once killed thousands of people each year.

Prior to Sir Alexander Fleming’s, accidental discovery of Penicillin in 1929, the use of maggots to clean away dead tissue from infected wounds was commonplace.  Leeches were popular with doctors for blood-letting to “balance” the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) and to bring an ill patient back into good health. Many quacks also peddled “snake oil elixirs,” as “cure-all medicines.

Below, I used my genealogy software to generate this sample report of 15 persons causes of death from various branches of my ancestral tree dating back to 1617-1944.  Aside from name, birth and death dates, it gives age at death and causes as written by physicians on their death certificates, with only one exception.  The last entry–Pocahontas’ cause of death description–comes from many historical writings about her life and death.

Causes of Death - My Family Tree Sample

 

 

You can follow and understand my ancestor’s causes of death rather easily with only a few exceptions of now archaic terms like “acute gastrointestinal auto intoxication,” “childbirth fever,” and “diphtheria,” similar to other now dated causes of death that I mentioned earlier. In today’s terminology infant “Bessie Charlotte Chambers,” died of blood poisoning; i.e., “toxemia,” a condition in which the blood has toxins produced by body cells at a local source of infection or derived from the growth of microorganisms, possibly from her milk.

Death Certificate-Bessie Charlotte ChambersDiphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children.  It is transmitted from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include sore throat, loss of appetite, and fever. The most notable feature of diphtheria, is the a thick gray substance called a pseudomembrane that forms over nasal tissues, tonsils, larynx, and/or pharynx. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Diphtheria was the third leading cause of death in children in England and Wales in the 1930s.

Since the introduction of effective immunization, starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates have dropped dramatically in the United States and other countries that vaccinate widely. Between 2004 and 2008, no cases of diphtheria were recorded in the United States. However, the disease continues to play a role globally. In 2007, 4,190 cases of diphtheria were reported, which is likely an underestimate of the actual number of cases.

Finally, below, I have included a table many more terms that genealogists and family historians may come across in their research of family members lives.

Obsolete Medical Terms and Definitions

TERM:

DEFINITION:

AGUE

Used to describe recurring fever and chills of malaria; can mean any fever with chills

BILIOUSNESS

Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease

CHLOROSIS

Iron deficiency anemia

CHOLERA INFANTUM

Summer diarrhea of infants usually the first summer after weaning from breastfeeding

CORRUPTION

Infection

CORYZA

A cold

COSTIVENESS

Constipation

CRAMP COLIC

Appendicitis

CREEPING PARALYSIS

Tabes dorsalis (syphilis)

DENTITION

Infantile convulsions; febrile seizures; infected dental caries (cavities); mercury poisoning from teething powders

DEBILITY

“Failure to thrive” in infancy or old age or loss of appetite and weight from undiagnosed T.B. or cancer.

DROPSY

Edema (swelling), sometimes caused by kidney or heart disease.

DYSPEPSIA

Acid indigestion

ECLAMPSIA

Convulsions of any cause; later applied more specific

EXTRAVASATED BLOOD

Rupture of blood vessel

FALLING SICKNESS

Epilepsy

FLUS OF HUMOUR

Circulation

FRENCH POX

Venereal disease

GALLOPING CONSUMPTION

Rapidly progressing tuberculosis

GREEN SICKNESS

Anemia

HEMORRHAGE AND INFLAMMATION

Ruptured aneurysm or swollen lymph nodes or superficial cancer with ulceration and bleeding; swollen lymph nodes from chronic infection, such as T. B., brucella, anthracis, staphylococcus, etc.

HIP GOUT

Osteomyelitis

JAIL FEVER

Typhus

KING’S EVIL

Scrofula (T.B. of lymph glands, especially of neck)

LUES VENERA

Venereal disease

LUMBAGO

Back pain

LUNG FEVER

Pneumonia

LUNG SICKNESS

Tuberculosis

MALIGNANT FEVER

Fever with hemolysis; malaria with hemorrhagic skin rash; meningococcal infection; putrid malignant fever; typhoid.

MANIA

Insanity

MARASMUS & DROPSY OF THE BRAIN

Hydrocephalus and wasting of the body

MILK LEG

Thrombosis in femoral vein, often after childbirth; death from pulmonary embolism or pelvic infection (usual cause for milk leg)

MORTIFICATION

Gangrene usually of the leg; trauma; infection; diabetes; aneurysm of aorta

NOSTALGIA

Homesickness

A PERIPNEUMONIA

Pneumonia plus pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura usually with fever, painful & difficult respiration, cough and fluid into the pleural cavity)

PUTRID FEVER

Diphtheria

PUTRID SORE THROAT

Gangrenous pharyngitis; tonsillitis with peritonsillar or retropharyngeal abscess.

QUINSY

Tonsillitis

REMITTING FEVER

Malaria

ROSE COLD

Hay fever incorrectly thought to be caused by rose pollen.

SANGUINEOUS CRUST

Scab

SCREWS

Rheumatism

SCROFULA

See KING’S EVIL

SHIP’S FEVER

Typhus

SOFTENING OF THE BRAIN

Dementia (Syphilitic or nonsyphilitic); cerebral hemorrhage; stroke

STOMACH TROUBLE

Complication of gastric ulcer perforation plus pancreatitis, hemorrhage, cancer.

STRANGERY

Rupture

SUMMER COMPLAINT

Diarrhea and vomiting; gastroenteritis

THROAT DISTEMPER

Tonsillitis; diphtheria

VENESECTION

Bleeding

 

World’s Oldest and Last Living Person Born in the 1800s


116 Years Difference in Time, Yet Not So Very Different 

Although Emma Martina Luigia Morano was born 29 November 1899, and not in the 21st Century, she was born amid “large-scale economic change, job uncertainty, the politics of extremism and paranoia, arguments over America’s international role, and racial conflicts,” to quote Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle.  

According to H.W. Brands, author of The Reckless Decade; Just as we do today, Americans of the 1890s faced changes in economics, politics, society, and technology that led to wrenching and sometimes violent tensions between rich and poor, capital and labor, white and black, East and West.

The 1890s saw the closing of the American frontier and a shift toward imperialist ambitions. Populists and muckrakers grappled with robber barons and gold-bugs. Americans addressed the unfinished business of Reconstruction by separating blacks and whites. Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and other black leaders clashed over the proper response to continuing racial inequality. Those on top of the economic heap—Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan—created vast empires of wealth, while those at the bottom worked for dimes a day.”

As a reconteur of family history set within the backdrop of a developing America, I read the AP article below, and my mind was deluged with thoughts and questions about Emma’s living conditions, her role in her family and society, and how many other achievements she may have accomplished aside from her probable genetic phenomenon of being the oldest person in the world, and the oldest Italian ever.

Searching a little further, I discovered that Emma married Giovanni Martinuzzi at age 27; they had one child ten years later; the baby died at six months old; and, that her marriage was an unhappy one so she kicked out Giovanni in 1938–but, she never divorced him.

Until 1954, Emma worked in her town for the Maioni Industry, a jute factory that made twine, rope, woven sacks and matting. Her other job was in the kitchen of Collegio Santa Maria, a Marianist boarding school in Pallanza, until she was 75 and then she retired.

And yet another phenom, she lived alone until her 115th birthday.

Italian woman, 116, seen as last living person born in 1800s

Author:  Associated Press, Inc. – Photographer:  Antonio Calanni, May 13, 2016116 Year Old Italian Woman

VERBANIA, Italy (AP) — Surrounded by relatives and neighbors, Italy’s Emma Morano greeted with a smile the news that she, at 116, is now the oldest person in the world.

Not only that, but Morano is believed to be the last surviving person in the world born in the 1800s, with a birthdate of Nov. 29, 1899. That’s just 4 ½ months after Susannah Mushatt Jones, who died Thursday in New York, also at 116.

Journalists on Friday descended on Morano’s home in Verbania, a northern Italian mountain town overlooking Lake Major, to document her achievement, but had to wait until she finished a nap to greet her. Morano lives in a neat one-room apartment, which she no longer leaves, and is kept company by a caregiver and two elderly nieces.

Morano told The Associated Press last year that she attributes her longevity to her unusual diet: Raw eggs every day — a diet she’s been on for decades after a sickly childhood. She said she is down to two raw eggs a day and 150 grams of raw steak after a bout of anemia.

“My father brought me to the doctor, and when he saw me he said, ‘Such a beautiful girl. If you had come just two days later, I would have not been able to save you.’ He told me to eat two or three eggs a day, so I eat two eggs a day,” she said at the time.

Her physician, Dr. Carlo Bava, is convinced there’s a genetic component to Morano’s longevity along with her positive attitude.

“From a strictly medical and scientific point of view, she can be considered a phenomenon,” he said last year, noting that Morano has been in stable, good health for years.

Italy is known for its centenarians — many of whom live on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia — and gerontologists at the University of Milan are studying Morano, along with a handful of Italians over 105, to try to figure out why they live so long.

During a visit last summer, Morano was in feisty spirits, displaying the sharp wit and fine voice that used to stop men in their tracks.

“I sang in my house, and people on the road stopped to hear me singing. And then they had to run, because they were late and should go to work,” she recalled, before breaking into a round of the 1930s Italian love song “Parlami d’amore Mariu.”

“Ahh, I don’t have my voice anymore,” she lamented.