Most evenings when the weather is nice, Marine Park resident Anne Vincent walks from the apartment garden, where she lives alone, to the nearby bocce courts to “get a game in.”
She loves to walk – and dance at parties. When she’s not playing bocce with the Marine Park Bocce Club, Anne plies her hand at bridge, Liverpool Rummy, or “whatever game is going around” at her favorite haunts; among them, St. Columba Golden Age Club, and the friendship club at Good Shepherd Church, where she was a daily communicant, until recently.
She reads daily, does the crossword puzzle, doesn’t need eyeglasses, possesses her hearing, all of her bottom teeth and eats three meals of “good plain food” a day – “no greasy food” – washed down by a glass of rosé wine. She walks up and down the flight of stairs in her apartment house “three or four times a day,” takes out her own garbage, cherishes her independence and doesn’t know who she’s going to vote for in the November elections because she doesn’t like Republicans, and she’s “not sure” about the Democrats anymore. “Not because of color, though, but because I don’t have confidence in them,” she adds, diplomatically.
The above wouldn’t be extraordinary at all – if Anne Vincent wasn’t 100 years old.
When the spry senior was born on July 1, 1908 in Carroll Gardens, World War I was years away, Teddy Roosevelt was president, a box of cornflakes cost 10 cents, the New Year’s Day ball made its debut drop in Time Square and women were banned from smoking in public.
The retired clerical worker for the New York Water Department is a serene, soft-spoken woman, with a mind for amusement and good conversation; a local living legend of sorts, in a modern world choking with chronic disease, co-dependence, stress and nonsense.
Those who know Anne have only fond words for her. “She’s sweet and kind and patient and a lot of fun,” says her bocce club president, Ellie Caporale. Adds Anne’s aide, Jacqueline, who stops by once a week to help with the shopping, “She’s a very nice woman, she loves people.”
Her humor is light and apparent: “Would you say I have any good points?” she chuckles, referring my question to Jacqueline.
Her modesty is as sweet when she prefaces a sentence with, “I don’t mean to be a big shot.”
She laughs off suggestions of her exceptionality by nonchalantly remarking, “I’m just an ordinary person.”
Her health and good looks, however, contradict her milestone age. A neat, trim woman with a thick head of white hair brushed neatly in a bob, and glowing skin which she cleans with simple soap, Anne is an anomaly in 2008 Brooklyn. Not because she is a centenarian, for the borough teams with them, but because few are as self-sufficient. Fewer still boast a clean bill of health from their doctors, take in some form of exercise regularly, or have her stamina.
Aside from Jacqueline’s visits, and bi-weekly ones from a cleaning lady, Anne, a widow without children, mostly manages by herself. That includes cultivating a social life many of us would envy, with friends calling her up, inviting her out and tossing surprise parties for this gentlewoman with whom they want to share a moment and make a memory.
“When you live to my age, you don’t have any more long-time friends left,” she says, brightly adding, “As the years go on, though, you make new friends.”
Age is just a three-digit number for the jewel-eyed elder, whose love of life and verve for venture has helped her cope with the loss of her mother at an early age, pass two World Wars, lose her beloved husband, William after 25 years of marriage, plus undergo two hip operations in her 90s, during which her doctors discovered that, amazingly, Anne didn’t suffer from a single age-related disease – a triumph she attributes to her genes and keeping a positive outlook.
“The Lord has been good to me, I try to keep cheerful, and friendly, and if someone doesn’t want to be friendly, I let it pass,” she discloses, noting, “Old people get demanding, I try not to be. Don’t worry about every little thing that comes up, it will all balance out eventually.”
Indeed it has for Anne Vincent, who is truly an example of one of Brooklyn’s more exceptional people, not for her earth-shattering discoveries, nor for her solutions to the world’s problems, (at least none that she divulged), but because she continues to live life as it was meant to be lived – with good spirit, and one memorable, productive, healthy, enjoyable day at a time.
E-mail“A Britisher’s View” at BritView@c