Happy 102nd birthday, Marion

In Celebrate 100, Redding author Lynn Adler tells the stories of people who’ve lived a century or more, defying old age. Marion Reynolds could be one of them. She shares the positive attitude, good memory and sense of humor that keeps so many centenarians younger than their years.

Ms. Reynolds recently celebrated her 102nd birthday with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren at Wilton Meadows, where she lives. She grew up in Georgetown, the youngest of nine children.

“I went to Gilbert & Bennett School. There were eight children in my graduating class,” she recalled. “Because there was no high school in Georgetown, we took the train to Norwalk High School. It took about three-quarters of an hour each way, but there were lots of kids, especially boys!”

She married Stanley Mendick shortly after graduating from high school and soon became a stay-at-home mother. Mr. Mendick was an electrician at the Gilbert & Bennett wire factory. They were married for 30 years. When he died and her youngest daughter, Janet, was 12, Ms. Renolds became a Gilbert & Bennett employee herself.

Ms. Reynolds’ strength and resilience are an inborn part of her personality. Her daughters Barbara Stackpole and Janet Auerbach said they can’t remember their mother ever raising her voice.

“She was always supportive,” Janet said, “she just naturally gave us unconditional love.”

“Maybe that’s why we never argue with each other,” Barbara remarked.

In 1968, she married Bill Reynolds, whom she’d known as a friend for years. He was a foreman at Gilbert & Bennett. It was a very happy, though brief, nine-year marriage when Bill died.

“When I told him I saw a house in Florida I loved. ‘Did you buy it?’ he said.” They did buy it and Ms. Reynolds lived in Port Charlotte, Fla., for 35 years, most of them as a widow.

Janet recalls, “She drove around all over the place in a red car.” She drove until she was 95 and moved to North Carolina to be near Barbara and then moved to Wilton Meadows, to be near Janet, who lives in Redding.

Of course, she’s always asked the secret of her long life. At 100, her answer was, “I kept breathing!” At 102, she says, “Good, clean living.”

Though she’s hard of hearing, her memory and sense of humor show no signs of aging. Twenty-five relatives attended her brunch birthday party at Wilton Meadows, including a 4-year-old grandchild and her 8-year-old great-great-grandson from Vermont. When someone asked to photograph her, she said, “There goes the camera!” The next day, she reminded Janet she hadn’t left her any banana bread (made from her own handwritten recipe).

Love and respect seem to be the most favorable ingredients for a long, good life. “She loves our husbands and she’s never interfered with the way we bring up our children,” Janet said. For a great-great-grandmother of 102, that makes Ms. Reynolds a role model.