New Jersey 100-Year-Olds Celebrate Love on Valentine's Day


Love Lasts Nearly a Century

The couple -- "fabulous dancers" -- reminisce about swirling to the jitterbug and waltzing to the tunes of the times when they met.

"They sense each other's frailties and try to help each other bear the difficulties that come with age," she said. "I notice them smile during these talks, understanding they are back in the 1930s again, as though it were yesterday."

Both are nature lovers and walked everywhere. Clarence cultivated African violets, according to Streaman. "When I left home my room became like a botanical garden."

Clarence, a former accountant for construction companies, was born in Boston on born April 30, 1911. He grew up a "southie" in Boston's Irish neighborhood. His mother knew John F. Kennedy's mother, then Rose Fitzgerald. Clarence was an altar boy in the same church where the late Sen. Ted Kennedy had his funeral -- the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

As was typical in large Roman Catholic families, he was sent away at 14 to a parochial high school, then on to study for entrance to the Redemptorist Order of the priesthood.

"Fortunately, for the family it was not meant to be and as a very religious and private person he kept those reasons to himself," said his daughter.

A Boston College graduate, Clarence continues to follow his beloved Red Sox.

Grayce, born Jan. 12, 1912, had a similar upbringing in the then-Irish brownstone neighborhood of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. A former secretary in the guidance office at a Catholic high school, she dropped out of school. "But mother was determined to go back to night school and got her GED," said Streaman.

Today, she is mentally sharp, and even with macular degeneration in one eye, Grayce reads the newspaper every day and enjoys novels by Nicholas Sparks. She still takes time to write handwritten birthday notes to her children.

During Hurricane Irene last year, Grayce fell and broke her right hip and shoulder and was hospitalized. Her daughter said it was "incredible" that at her advanced age she survived surgery and the strong pain medications that followed.

Clarence's health has been going downhill for some time. He hearing-impaired and partially blind from macular degeneration and has a pacemaker. He has also developed what his family kindly calls, "confusion."

But he communicates clearly with his family, although he needs reassurance that Grayce is near.

"He just constantly calls out for my mother -- she can be right there -- with a patience that is unwavering," said Streaman.

"They came from a generation of simple people," she said. "Mother always tells me we always had what we needed. She asks of the next generation: Do you want it or just need it?"

"They never like a fuss and don't want to put people out," she said.

On Valentine's Day, their aide, Alice, will probably help Grayce make a cake for their special day. In the past, they celebrated holidays as a family, according to Streaman, and "never would care to bring special attention just to themselves."

"They both put their faith in God and I guess God feels he still needs them here for us," said Streaman. "Mom quietly says, I have to get strong for dad."

Last fall when Grayce was in the hospital, she told the doctor, "I just want to die in my sleep," according to her daughter. "And he said, 'You will.' And then my father calls, and she thinks she'll go up and take care of him."

Grayce said she wishes life weren't so difficult in their old age, but as her granddaughter Laura walks through the door with a smile on her face, her grandmother perks up.

"Mom smiled when she saw the nice weather and said, 'Soon, I will go for a walk outside,'" said Streaman. "And she will."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 15575507.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...