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Turning 104: Longtime Concord resident Melba Watterson still gets back to the beach

  • Melba Watterson, 104, talks about growing up in East Concord from her home on June 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Yarn and knitting needles are seen at Melba Watterson’s home in East Concord on June 15, 2018. Watterson turned 104 on June 13. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Melba Watterson, 104, with her white orchid at her home in East Concord on June 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Melba Watterson, 104, talks in her home in East Concord on June 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Melba Watterson, 104, talks about growing up in East Concord from her home on June 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Birthday cards and a small cake are seen on the dining room table at Melba Watterson’s home in East Concord on June 15, 2018. Watterson turned 104 on June 13. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • A small framed photo of Melba Watterson’s husband is seen in her home in East Concord on June 15, 2018. Watterson turned 104 on June 13. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Melba Watterson has lived in East Concord for 99 of her 104 years, the last 60 of them from the same little apartment on Eastman Street.

“I’ve seen it all,” she said last week, two days after her birthday.

She remembers buying chestnuts with her father before disease wiped out all the local trees, walking the 3 miles into town for a hot dog with friends. She remembers the old house she shared with her extended family before it was bought from them and torn down to make way for Exit 16.

She’s seen changes from the agricultural to the technology age, horse and carriages to steam trains and automobiles; from families owning their own chickens and cows, to milkman deliveries, to walks to Quality Cash Market and now grocery trips into Concord, which she always just refers to as “the city.”

“You know, I don’t feel any different, but I can’t do as many things. I run out of energy,” she said.

Good friend Marianne Cussins of Northwood gives her a little more credit.

“I met her when she was 91, and she’s going almost as fast now as she was when she was 91. The only thing different is she doesn’t drive.”

Watterson gave up the wheel at 98.

“I think the car gave out first,” Cussins joked.

Watterson doesn’t have any children, and her husband, Harry, died in 1988, but an abundance of nieces, nephews and friends like Cussins makes for a string of birthday luncheons and road trips.

Last Monday, the pair continued a new birthday tradition – now in year three – of driving out to Polly’s Pancake Parlor and the Fields of Lupine Festival in Sugar Hill. Watterson loves the ocean, so last Wednesday, her actual birthday, she and Cussins went to Rye for lunch and drove out to Nubble Point in York, Maine.

“My old stomping ground,” Watterson called it.

She and her husband owned a cottage near the Nubble Lighthouse for 24 years while he was still alive.

“When we had our cottage, we never went up the other direction into the mountains. That doesn’t interest me,” she said. “I want the ocean. It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful. It’s relaxing.”

Still living independently, knitting hats for Friends of Forgotten Children, books and friends to keep her busy, Watterson is looking forward to her next beach visit.

“Everybody asks me, ‘What’d you have to do to live so long?’ If you young people don’t slow down and smell the flowers, it’s going to be a short life,” she said.

“That’s the word for the day. That’s my advice.”

(Elizabeth Frantz can be reached at efrantz@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@lizfrantz.)