According to fairly recent statistics, only a tiny percentage of Americans reach the century milestone − less than 1 percent. Brooksville resident Marion Weeden is a member of that elite club. Ms. Weeden (once you get to know her, you will want to call her Marion) lives at Hacienda House, a homey assisted living facility in a wooded part of the county.
Marion was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on November 28, 1922. Her mother, Carola, was a young widow with two daughters when she married Marion’s father, Harold. In addition to her two older half-sisters, Marion had a younger sister born eight years after her.
Her parents were born in Sweden and emigrated to the United States in their late teens. They kept many Swedish traditions, as did Marion after she started her own family.
Marion’s youngest daughter, Bonnie, remembers eating traditional Swedish foods, learning Swedish words from her mother, and then repeating them in school, not knowing what they meant.
Her daughter, Marcia, stated, “My grandparents kept close ties with their Swedish relatives and traveled frequently back and forth between the U.S. and Sweden.”
When she was two years old, Marion moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts and her father got a job in the shipyard there. As a child, she enjoyed skating, reading, and playing games like checkers. She attended an elementary school called the Thomas P. Pollard School, which is still standing. Marion’s favorite subjects were art and reading. To this day, she enjoys reading among her other hobbies.
When the Depression hit in 1929, Marion helped support her family
by going from house to house every Saturday and selling donuts that her mother had made.
Marion married her husband, Vernon, on August 30, 1941, and their eldest daughter, Diana, was born in 1943.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Vernon had three deferments from military service. He was married, had a child, and worked in a defense-related industry as a pipefitter building warships. However, he felt guilty about not being in the military, so he went to the draft board and asked them to waive his deferments. They would only do that if his wife signed a paper saying she wasn’t financially dependent on him.
“So, I signed it because he wanted to go so badly,” Marion said matter-of-factly.
At the time, he was working seven days a week and, with overtime pay, made $172 per week. After he enlisted, their income dropped to $62.50 per month. Marion and her daughter had to move out of their apartment and live with her parents. After two years in the Army Air Force teaching celestial navigation to pilots, Vernon re-entered civilian life.
The Weedens went on to have three more children − a son, Craig; their daughter, Marcia; and Bonnie, the youngest.
Bonnie remembers her mother as very involved with her children and a loving mother.
“She’s very people-oriented and makes friends easily,” Bonnie remarks.
In turn, Marion commented, “I had four kids, and not once did they get into trouble, and that made me feel very good.”
The family moved to Barrington, Rhode Island, where Marion and her husband raised their children. She was a homemaker for the most part but later joined the Barrington police department and worked predominantly as a crossing guard. Occasionally, they would call her in for duty when they arrested or detained a woman.
In talking to Marion, she doesn’t expound on her many talents, but her daughter, Marcia, relates how her mother was a gifted keyboardist and seamstress.
“She taught sewing at a middle school in Fall River, Massachusetts, for many years. She also made the wedding and bridesmaids gowns for my younger sister and me and our bridesmaids.” Later, Marion developed a love for quilting. She started several quilting groups in Brooksville that are still in existence. In fact, Marion still enjoys quilting, along with knitting and crocheting.
In the 1970s, the Weedens decided to become “snowbirds” because Vernon couldn’t take the cold winters up north. They settled on Brooksville because they had friends who had moved here.
When asked what the most significant change she has seen over her hundred years is, Marion said, “There is more variety in what you can buy these days than in the old days.”
She remarked that the advice she would give people is to “eat and drink sensibly, help others when needed and attend church.”
Marion follows this advice herself and remarks that the secret to her longevity is don’t smoke, eat moderately and drink in moderation.
“I was never one for eating junk, and I don’t eat a lot of sweets.”
As for smoking, “I had one cigarette in my life, and that was when I first started working. Some of the girls there got me to try one cigarette, and I hated the taste!”
Marion was actively involved in St. James Lutheran Church in Barrington and is a member of a local Lutheran church.
She and her husband celebrated fifty-seven years of marriage before he passed away in 1998. Besides her four children, Marion’s legacy includes nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Her eldest daughter, Diana, lived with her at Hacienda House until she died in June of this year. Bonnie and Marcia live in New England, but her son, Craig, lives in Clearwater. He visits her as often as possible and talks to her on the phone several times daily.
A quotation ascribed to “Unknown” states, “Aging is just another word for living.” Marion Weeden epitomizes this philosophy. She is not only aging gracefully but is living life to its fullest.