A Good Age: Auld lang syne to the eldest who inspired and entertained us – The Patriot Ledger

January 5th, 2021 1:48 am

Sue Scheible|The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY -- Dorothy "Dot" Cole was a reluctant interview at the age of 98 in 2016. "The only time you belong in thenewspaper is for your obituary," she said. "No one wants to hear you bragging about yourself before that."

I was fortunate to be able to coax a few stories out of Dot,a charmer who was still working from the home in Weymouth where she had lived her entire life. After that, she wouldn't talk to me again when she reached age 100. Dot would have turned 102on Christmas Day this year but died Dec. 10 at home. Her obituary gave her arepeat appearance in the paper where she recapped the facts of her life.

At the opposite end of the publicity spectrum of remarkable elders I have met was the irrepressible Ruth Kundsin of Quincy, a "Let's go for it" interview subject from the start. Tipped off by her friends,I wrote about her becoming a centenarian in 2016 and followed her each year after. She surprised and delighted readers and drew national attention:at age 103 she was working out with herpersonal trainer Dick Raymond weekly at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy

She kept that regimen up until this year, when at 104 she decided enough was enough in July. She was working on a book about her pioneering professional life as a microbiologistwhen shedied at home on Thanksgiving Day, family and friends by her side. Ruth was anAssociate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Emerita, at Harvard Medical School. Her groundbreaking research on airborne pathogensled to important changes in hospital and operating room protocols.

Turning 104, Ruth Kundsin of Quincy tells it like it is

As retired microbiologist Ruth Kundsin turns 104, she wonders if it's time to stop her workouts with a personal trainer at the South Shore YMCA.

Sue Scheible, The Patriot Ledger

In May, the legendary Mary Pratt of Quincy died at age 101 after a long and illustrious career teaching physical education and fighting for the rights of women in sports. In 1943, Pratt became a pitcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

She was one of the first members of the Rockford Peaches,the team featured in the movie "A League of Their Own."

As a youngster, she loved playing ball with the boys in her Connecticut neighborhood. Her family moved to Quincy; she graduated from North Quincy Highand attended Sargent College of Physical Education at Boston University.

At age 24, Pratt was scouted for the brand new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She played ball for five years, returned to Quincy and was passionate about teaching physical educationfor 48 years, including three in Braintree and 42 in Quincy.

She became a passionate fighterfor new opportunities for women in sports and more leadership positions.

When Pratt was in her 90s, she moved to 1000 Southern Artery senior housing in Quincy. Herneighbors included some of her former students who knew her as their gym teacher in grade school.Helen Colette, 80, was walking through the lounge one day when she spotted that familiar face from the past.Colette was standing with her hands in her pockets when Mary sized her up and said approvingly, Look at her, standing so tall and nice and straight. Her shoulders match her hips and her hips match her ankles.

Another effervescent phenom was Agnes Mullay of Quincy, who died in Aprilthree weeks after her 108th birthday at Alliance Health at Marina Bay Nursing Center. She hadloved to sit in the lobby and greet people.At 4-foot-8, she was a tiny woman with a rich chuckle and sparkling smile.

A less visible but equally large loss was that of Shirley Bartlett of Weymouth, who was 93, had survived COVID, recovered and then died last summer.Shirley had a large circle of friends, was an aunt, great-aunt, and great-great-aunt to many nieces and nephews. She belonged to the Weymouth Newcomers Club, the Castle Island Association,participated in choral groups and line dancing and sang at nursing homes.

It is such aprivilege to have met and interviewed these and other South Shore elders and to have heard their stories. They have shared their secrets and ways of adjusting to long life with wisdom and a positiveperspective.They remain present in our memories,their achievements and their stories.

In the weeks ahead, we'll catch up with others who continue to lead the way in longevity.

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A Good Age: Auld lang syne to the eldest who inspired and entertained us - The Patriot Ledger

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