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HomeAt Home & BeyondMarge O’Keefe – 100 Years Young

Marge O’Keefe – 100 Years Young

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Surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Marge O’Keefe celebrated a milestone that not many of us achieve. She turned 100 on June 5, 2023. Most of her family flew in from out of state, while her son, Gary, and his wife, Mary, had a short trip from their home in Spring Hill.

Marge lives at the Salishan Retirement Community, and the staff there “put on the Ritz” to make sure she celebrated in style. The centenarian and her guests feasted on shrimp cocktail, salad, filet mignon, potatoes, and asparagus. And, of course, there was the requisite birthday cake.

As I sat and visited with the family, Marge told me about herself. She remembers small details about her youth, even the names of some of her teachers. And she is able to walk around with just the aid of a cane. The sparkle in her eyes and the light-hearted tone in her voice tell us that she enjoys life to its fullest and plans to celebrate more birthdays.

Marge was born in Manchester, Connecticut−a small town near Hartford, and lived there most of her life. She was an only child, and I’m sure the love that her parents showered on her is one of the reasons she is described by many of her relatives as a “very loving person.”

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As a child, she enjoyed doing many of the activities that children of that era did. She played jump rope, jacks, card games such as Old Maid and hopscotch.
“I remember my mother always made us clean up the chalk from the sidewalk after we were done playing,” Marge quipped.

Her father was a World War I veteran and later worked as a plumber in a local mill that produced silk material. Her mother and two aunts also worked there as spinners and weavers. The silkworms came all the way from Japan.

In high school, her favorite subjects were history, geography, typing, and stenography. When she graduated, Marge immediately went to work as a clerk typist with Travelers Insurance in Hartford.

“I didn’t even take a vacation before I started working, and my friends were really surprised at that. I rode the bus to work every day. My first paycheck was $15.”
When World War II came along, everything changed for Marge, as well as the rest of the country. Gasoline was among the items that were rationed. People planted “Victory Gardens” and grew vegetables to supplement their diet.

Her father was a volunteer community air raid warden. He was responsible for making sure that everyone was prepared for air raids or any other kind of emergency. Her mother went to work for the Pioneer Parachute Company. Originally, the company purchased silk from the local silk mill, but later it became the first company to use nylon for its parachutes.

In 1946, Marge married James O’Keefe. He was a World War II veteran, having served with the Occupation Forces in Japan. The couple moved to Hartford, where James worked for the state of Connecticut. They had two children−Gary and Eileen. When the children were older, Marge worked for the town of East Hartford in their personnel department. The family lived in Hartford for 16 years before moving back to Manchester.

Marge and James, like many other northerners, became “snowbirds” in their twilight years. They owned a condo in Vero Beach and lived there for part of the year. Her son and daughter-in-law moved to Florida, which is part of the reason Marge is living here full-time now.

James passed away in 2000, but, despite being 77 years old and on her own, Marge stayed in Connecticut, living in the family home. However, four and a half years ago, her son talked her into coming to Hernando County.

Being as independent as she is, Marge insisted she did not want to live with Gary and Mary.

“They need their space, and I need mine,” she said.
Marge chose to live at Salishan, where she has a one-bedroom apartment, plenty of activities to keep her busy, and three meals a day, along with other amenities.
Having lived so long, you wonder what advice a person might have for living a long, fulfilling life and what major changes they’ve seen over their life span.

Marge had something to say on each topic. “Try to stay independent. Keep doing what you did when you were young,” she remarked.

“When my mother got a refrigerator, that was a big change. Before that, we had an icebox. The iceman would come with his horse and wagon to deliver the ice, and sometimes, it would be melted by the time he delivered to everyone. Another thing−now, just about everyone’s looking down at their phone,” she added, pantomiming the motion of looking down and pressing buttons.

The relatives who were there had nothing but praise for Marge. The family members were her daughter, Eileen; her son and his wife; her grandson, Brian, and his wife, Adrienne; grandson Jeffrey O’Keefe and his wife, Jennifer; granddaughter Adrienne Mahoney; and two great granddaughters−Emma Mahoney and Annamarie O’Keefe.

Her son, Gary, remarked, “My mother goes with the flow. She says that her glass is half-full. When my dad died, she was the one comforting everyone else.”
Brian commented, “She’s a very loving person. She’s blessed our family so much.”
Annamarie, her great-granddaughter, stated, “She’s very positive and never complains.”

Comedian George Burns, who lived to see 100, said: “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”

Marge O’Keefe will be forever young to her family and the people around her.

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