“I was born in Lansing, Michigan and my father taught chemistry at Michigan State, which at that time was Michigan Agricultural College. I lived in the same house until I left home. My brother and I roamed the campus, which was right across the street from my house. My father was also the organist and choir director at the Episcopal Church in town.

I went to Oberlin College where I was an art major. I always like to say, that’s where coeducation began. Oberlin was also the first college to allow Black people in. I came to NY when I was 23 and single. I was a file clerk for a publishing company. I lived at a Y that was all women. For seven dollars a week you got a room and two meals.

I finally got back into art after my children were older and I started to take adult school art courses. I belonged to the Fair Lawn Art Association, which in those days was a pretty active group. I studied with Mel Stabin, and it became a love affair—any time he is giving classes I take them. It’s so convenient because he teaches in a room at the Unitarian Church across the street. I don’t make too much effort to sell my work but I have had several exhibits at the church—this is going to be the eighth year. I make small watercolors since it is more of a craft show. I usually create about 30 of them, right here at my desk.

I have lived here for six years now and I find it very interesting. It is reasonably priced since it is non-profit. It is not a nursing home; it is for people who can still function well. We have a chef who cooks lunch and dinner, and we can make our own breakfast. We have a system of cooperation, where once a week we get kitchen duty. There are 14 people. When I hear people complaining I think, what are they complaining about? They don’t have anything to do! They watch television.
Communal activities are a hard thing to get going here. Everybody comes from different backgrounds, different educational, financial, and geographical backgrounds, but to me it’s very interesting, since you are getting together with all of these different people. But as far as doing something goes, I probably have more to do than many of the other residents. There are two people that do still work. June next door, who sells the contents of people’s homes when they move. Another woman has a volunteer church job. She gets things done before you have even thought of it. Then there is Bob, who is very negative, and for everything that comes up, he only sees the dark side. I look at the humor.

Well, I have been connected with the church since 1958. I am the oldest member there. Everybody gives me great applause in a manner of speaking. They have a lot of activities there, but what I like best of all, which I hope I can do for as long as I live, is English Country Dancing. I go twice a month. I go to all the church activities and by this time I know a lot of people there. Services are always very interesting and we have beautiful music. And I should mention that I spent 30 years as a secretary in the office! I enjoyed that because I got to write the newsletter. We have a writing group that gets together every Thursday night, and a book group once a month. We’ve gotten to be very great friends.

I had three children and two of them have died. One daughter in Oregon died of a brain tumor. My son was mentally deficient and they called it brain injury; now it would be called neurological impairment. He ended up living in an institution. He really didn’t have a life and he died at 26. That was a very sad occasion. You never forget these things but they get less; I don’t dwell on it. I am a positive person. My daughter who is still alive is wonderful. She visits, but not too frequently, which I appreciate. She doesn’t hover. She teaches piano and her husband is a college librarian who plays the French horn.

The thing I want most now is just to live here. I feel like I definitely have peace of mind now. It has taken me a long time to get here, going through stuff with my kids. But I learned a lot through living. You get a lot of help along the way, through other people.

I was brought up Episcopalian. But when I learned about the Unitarians, I said ‘they’re for me,’ because they are open-minded and they accept everybody. If people don’t like it they don’t stay. But the people who do come are terrific people, and that’s why I go for over there, for the wonderful people. They are intelligent, they are nice people to be with, they are very helpful, they do a lot of good work. They are really out there to do the right thing.

When I think back on my life, I wish I had not been so timid about things, had taken more risks. My sins were more the sins of omission rather than the sins of commission.

What do I enjoy about being this age? Well, I enjoy not having much responsibility. I am past all the big heavy stuff of life. I like to be by myself. I get along with myself; I like myself. I have also learned that if you look for the humor in a situation you will find it and it makes life easier.”

Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax for this exhibition.