Oldest living Irishwoman at 108 gives us exclusive interview
County Clare woman left Ireland in 1918
Margaret was forced to go back to work. “I worked for a doctor’s wife in New York and I loved her,” she said.
Margie recalls that it was difficult for the family to maintain the Woodside home, but they pulled together and survived. Mother and daughter have been living together more or less since the day Frederick died, including after Margie married a New York City cop and had three children of her own.
“My husband was so understanding and so wonderful,” says Margie, a widow for the past year. “He was a cop and after he retired in 1983 we moved from Queens up here to Queensbury, and Mom came with us.”
Margie, 76, is her mother’s primary caretaker and best friend by far. “We are very close. I don’t know what I’d do without her,” she says, noting that her three other siblings live in Long Island and Florida and, as such, don’t get to spend much time with their mother.
Was it hard for Margaret to leave Ireland behind and never return? Margie says it was for sure, and that her mother often talked about home, but Margaret pipes up with a different reply.
“I was glad to get out of it!” she roars. “I love New York and I love this country! You can say and do anything you want here.”
Margaret is far from bed-ridden, and her physical appearance for someone her age is extraordinary. Margie reports that her mother has never had any serious illnesses, apart from a broken hip, some digestive problems and other issues that are part of the aging process, such as forgetfulness and confusion.
She spends her days receiving visitors in her wheelchair, including Margie’s three children and other cousins in the area, and watching her flat screen TV – Oprah Winfrey and the Fox News Channel are her favorites.
Reading is also a passion. “But I can’t do it anymore. I need a magnifying glass!” she shouts at Margie, who informs her mother that one is on the way.
When it comes time for a photo, Margaret is more than ready for her close-up. “Will I take off my glasses?” she asks in her soft Clare brogue that makes you want to scoop her up and run away with her – that’s how adorable she is.
There is great longevity in Margaret’s family. Her mother lived until she was 98, and a sister, Nellie, died recently at the ripe young age of 103.
Margaret has received a signed letter and commemorative coin from Irish President Mary McAleese every year since her 100th birthday, an Irish government policy of marking the milestones of its most remarkable citizens. And though no one lives forever, Margaret Kelly shows every sign of adding to her coin collection next June 2, and beyond.
“Everyone loves her, even though she can be stubborn!” laughs Margie. “She’s an inspiration for sure.”
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