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Concord native was born 103 years ago on New Year’s Day 

  • Dora Bresaw in the living room of her home in Bow on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Bresaw turned 103 years old on New Year’s Day, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Dora Bresaw looks at photos of her family, including her great-grandchildren, with her son-in-law Arthur Fritz (left) of Rye in her home in Bow on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Bresaw turned 103 years old on New Year‘s’ Day, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • A sign with the phrase “A day with Nana... Priceless,” is seen on the kitchen counter in Dora Bresaw’s home in Bow on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Bresaw turned 103 years old on New Year’s Day, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Dora Bresaw looks at photos of her family, including her great-grandchildren, in her home in Bow on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Bresaw turned 103 years old on New Year’s Day, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Dora Bresaw looks at photos of her family, including her great-grandchildren, in her home in Bow on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Bresaw turned 103 years old on New Years Day, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Dora Bresaw has lived in the Concord area most of her life, but she says there isn’t much about Main Street she recognizes anymore.

There are too many new stores and cafes downtown, Bresaw says; street names have changed, and parking costs more than it used to.

“To me, it’s just not Concord,” the 103-year-old said at her home in Bow on Friday.

The Concord of Bresaw’s memory is a far different place from that of today – one with horses, buggies and one-room schoolhouses.

Bresaw was born on New Year’s Day in 1915. Her mother gave birth to her at home with a local visiting doctor.

Concord Hospital – then called Margaret Pillsbury General Hospital – had been built only 25 years before and was reserved for more serious procedures.

As far as Bresaw knows, she is the oldest living person in the area. She has 18 great-grandchildren ranging from 3 to 16 years old.

Bresaw doesn’t drive much anymore – although her driver’s license doesn’t technically expire until 2019. Family members take her out when she leaves her apartment at White Rock Senior Living Community in Bow for her weekly hair appointments.

She said familiar landmarks downtown are the great State House with the gold dome, Granite State Candy Shoppe and the old Endicott Hotel, which was recently renovated into apartment units.

But it’s still a much-changed place from the city where Bresaw and her friends would catch street cars to the Contoocook River Park in Penacook for 10 cents, which sometimes elicits amusement for her children.

“We’ll be driving around, and she’ll say, ‘Where are we now?’ Because everything just looks so new,” said Bresaw’s 83-year-old daughter, Betty Martel.

Back in her day

In 1915, Bresaw’s family lived in the section of Concord now known as The Heights on Loudon Road, one of the city’s commercial areas. But when Bresaw was a little girl, it was called “The Plains,” and there were only a few farm families that lived there on mostly undeveloped land.

Bresaw’s house was located where the Wendy’s franchise is today. She said she and her three siblings spent most of their time roaming outside with neighborhood children, playing her mother’s organ and going to church at the Emmanuel chapel.

There were only two grocery stores in Concord. Bresaw’s mother made all of their clothes by hand, and the family got eggs from chickens they raised, and meat from pigs. One of their neighbors had cows, and the Bresaws would buy milk from them by the bottle.

Her mother stayed at home with Bresaw and her siblings, and her father worked painting houses in the summer and cutting ice in the winter for ice boxes. Her family couldn’t afford to send her to college, so she worked as a nanny when she graduated from high school at age 16.

During the holiday season, she worked part time at the F.W. Woolworth department store on Main Street.

When she would get off shifts at night, she would have to find her way up the hill to her house without street lights to guide her. A boy who lived in The Plains nearby would often meet her downtown so she wouldn’t have to walk the path home alone in the dark.

She later married that boy, Jay Richard Bresaw, in 1933, and they moved to Bow and had three children.

After retirement, she and her husband summered in Florida until he passed away suddenly in 1981 at 65.

Bresaw decided to settle down in Port Charlotte, Fla., full time shortly after. She drove up to New Hampshire with other widows she’d befriended, and they would make trips to the ocean together. She moved back to New Hampshire in 2015, her 100th year.

Still kicking

At 103, Dora Bresaw is as sharp as ever. She spends much of her time in her four-room apartment solving Sudoku problems and jigsaw puzzles, some of which she has displayed in frames on her apartment’s walls.

She is quick to give her opinions on immigration or the state of mental health care in the country. Bresaw has always been a loyal Republican; she voted in the 2016 general election at age 101 for Donald Trump, whom she loves.

Her gray-blue eyes light up when she speaks about the Red Sox, a team she’s followed since she was a child. Her family took her to Fenway Park for the first time in her 90s, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Last year, she got a notice for jury duty. Although she felt she wasn’t fit enough to partake, she framed the letter and put it on her wall next to photos of her generations of grandchildren.

“I would have done it if I could walk better,” she said. “I think I would have enjoyed that.”

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)