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On the Move

On the move: Friend still living an active life as she becomes a centenarian

Arlyne French recently celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family at Havenwood Heritage Heights. (Courtesy)

Arlyne French recently celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family at Havenwood Heritage Heights. (Courtesy)

I hadn’t seen my friend Arlyne French in quite a while when this exciting news arrived in my mailbox. A note from her told me she had just returned from several months in Hawaii with her daughter Melody, who lives on the island of Maui, and that she would celebrate her 100th birthday at Havenwood Heritage Heights on July 12. She enclosed a recent photograph of herself, topped with 9 inches in diameter of peach-colored hibiscus blossom.

Seventy-three friends and relatives attended the party in the Great Room at Havenwood. Arlyne wore a cardboard golden crown, a pink-feathered boa and one of her many Hawaiian muumuus. There was a huge birthday cake, lots of refreshments and fun. Having requested that there be no gifts, she received 93 cards.

Reaching one’s 100th birthday is happening to quite a number of people these days, but reaching 100 in good health and being able to enjoy a productive life, as my friend does, is quite unusual. I am awed by her being able to travel to Hawaii. She did stop in Kansas for a week with a granddaughter and family on her way home. Arlyne is very active. At Havenwood, she lives in her own cottage. She gets her own meals. She loads her laundry into a bag on wheels, carts it over to the Havenwood laundry area and brings a book to read while her clothes dry. She loves jewelry and makes fabulous necklaces with bits and pieces she finds in her travels. I must have seen 50 necklaces and was gifted with one made of tiny blue Hawaiian sea shells.

Arlyne has been a photographer all of her adult life. Melody is also a photographer and recently updated Arlyne’s equipment. She had her new camera at the party. Arlyne also paints and has completed two new paintings, one of a New England coastal scene in fall colors and one of a Bird of Paradise blossom, both painted during her recent Pacific visit. She loves to write letters. Aware that some older people have unsteady hands and find it difficult to write, Arlyne offers to write letters for them. She and a friend make greeting cards, and the latest one has a fat, curly-haired sheep on the cover and the words, “Thank Ewe.”

There’s a stack of to-be-filled photo albums on Arlyne’s living room coffee table. “Another project,” she said. The albums are to be filled with pictures of her paintings, copies of her photographs, family pictures and the story of her life, and will be passed down to her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and her first great-great-grandchild, who is due in September.

Arlyne grew up in Maine. She attended high school in Augusta, then graduated from Central High School in Manchester. Dancing has been a major interest of hers. She married a soldier who received a battlefield commission and retired as a lieutenant colonel. They lived on many U.S. posts and were stationed in England for three years. In retirement, they lived for 30 years in Andover, until the colonel’s poor health sent them to Hawaii’s lovely climate. Although Arlyne loves Hawaii, New Hampshire is her home. After her husband died, she came home to New Hampshire and much of her family.

Arlyne has lived at Havenwood for 12 years. She takes part in many of the activities offered to the residents. Years ago, she was one of Sally Kelly’s clowns. The clowns entertained at Havenwood and at local nursing homes and hospitals. “I loved being a clown,” she said. “The great part of being a clown is that nobody knows who you are under the wigs and makeup so you can be as silly as you feel.”

Now, she’s 100 years old. She has been a member of the Pineconia Grange for many years and was recently invited to celebrate their 100th anniversary and hers with Grange members. Arlyne initiated the Grange project of giving dictionaries to fifth-graders throughout the state. She delivered the books to 16 schools.

Arlyne said, “I feel truly blessed that God has made it possible for me to be here for this many years and that I’ve been given the health that allows me to do all the things I do. I have so many unfinished projects that I just don’t have time to die.”

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