Ceccarelli was born in Willits, California, USA, on 5 February 1908. She was the first of seven children born to Italian immigrants Agostino Recagno (1874–1965) and Maria Petronavi (1881–1973). Her siblings were: Annette Marie (1909–1996), Frank (1910–1994), Peter (1912–1976), Nita, Virginia, and George (1919–2007). Her father opened a small grocery store in 1916, where he sold his goods by horse and buggy. During her youth, she and her younger brothers would occasionally earn 50 cents a day by picking potatoes in the surrounding valley.
In 1927, she graduated from Willits Union High School. During her time at school, she played basketball and also learned to play the saxophone, which her mother had saved money to buy for her. During summers, she worked at a resort in Hopland. On 17 November 1933, she married her high school sweetheart, Elmer “Brick” Keenan in Ukiah. The following year, the couple moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he worked as a pressman for the Santa Rosa Democrat. They adopted one daughter, Laureen
In 1971, after her husband’s retirement following 36 years of service, they returned to Willits. They lived in a home built for them by her brother, George. Her husband passed away in 1984, aged 74. At a dance at the Ukiah Senior Center, she met Charles Ceccarelli, whom she married in 1986. Her second husband passed away in 1990. Her only daughter passed away in 2003, at age 64.
At 104 years old, following the passing of her longtime local companion and dance partner, she penned an open letter in the newspaper, seeking a new waltzing companion. In the letter, she shared her phone number, inviting potential dance partners to reach out. At the age of 107, when recalling her return to Willits, she commented, “I like the small town; you know more people. You go to a big city, you don’t know anybody.” She lived independently until she was 107, when she moved into a senior living facility. At the age of 108, she attributed her longevity to abstaining from smoking or drinking—except for a glass of wine with dinner—avoiding squabbles, practicing honesty, working hard, and appreciating the little things in life. She added, “You’ve got to work. You learn to live without a lot, for one thing. You can’t have everything you like. You’ve got to sacrifice a little.” On her 114th birthday, she could still walk with the assistance of a walker, but her cognitive abilities had declined over the past years due to dementia.
Ceccarelli currently lives in Willits, California, USA.