Centenarians (from left) Lavina Fontaine, Sue Crowder, Honor Hollingshead and Margaret Burns haven’t let a little thing like age slow them down as they look to their second century of life.
CLEARWATER – The year 1917 was an auspicious one – The U.S. declared war on Germany and entered into the fray of World War I; Albert Einstein wrote his first paper outlining the theory of relativity in relation to the cosmos; and the modern zipper as we know it today was created.
And four very special women came into this world.
And now, 100 years later, those same four women are a testament to a century’s worth of good living. They’ve lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and the Great Recession. They’ve seen man step foot on the moon and the Berlin Wall go up and come down.
And now, the Golden Girls, as they have been nicknamed, say they are quite content to sit back and relax as they gear up for the next century of living.
While centenarians are not uncommon, four living within walking distance of one another certainly is.
But that’s exactly what you’ll find on any given day if you were to enter the The Hampton at Clearwater. The independent living facility is home to Sue Crowder, Lavina Fontaine, Margaret Burns, and Honor Hollingshead – four delightfully charming ladies whose spryness and vivacity rival those half their ages.
Sue Crowder married when she was just 19 years old. Originally from Chicago, Crowder raised two children – a girl and a boy – and has eight grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
She and her husband were avid travelers and Florida was always a bright spot for them.
“We traveled this whole state,” Crowder said.
She and her husband retired to Dunedin in 1967. Crowder made her way to the Hampton 14 years ago.
“When you find a place you like, you like to stay there,” Crowder said of the retirement community.
Lavina Fontaine, the youngest of the Golden Girls, settled into the Sunshine State with husband Kilbourne 37 years ago.
A budget analyst for the U.S. Army at one point in her career, both she and her husband eventually worked for General Electric, while raising their son in Indianapolis.
But it’s mighty cold in Indiana during the winters and the snowbirds were looking for a more temperate climate after they retired.
“We were really looking to get out of the cold weather,” Fontaine said.
The couple first settled in Venice, where they lived for 17 years. After her husband’s death, Fontaine moved to the Hampton 20 years ago.
Margaret Burns spent most of her 100 years in Georgia, where she served as nurse in various hospitals and nursing homes.
Burns’ first husband, Elbert Kennedy, served his country in the Marine Corps while she stayed home and raised their daughter, Melinda.
“He left to go overseas when she was 1-year-old and she was 3 when he came back,” Burns said.
Burns would go on to marry her second husband, Jack, who was a fur coat designer for 27 years.
Burns moved to Florida seven years ago and settled into the Hampton three years ago.
Canadian expatriate Honor Hollingshead vacationed often in the Sunshine State with husband Frank, who she married in 1941.
After earning a degree in General Studies, Hollingshead and her husband would eventually take positions with the Canadian government.
Many a vacation was spent in Florida, Hollingshead said, which was quite the departure from her native Canada.
She moved to Clearwater 12 years ago and eventually settled into life at the Hampton.
One might think that when you’ve reached the age of 100, you might take a step back and rusticate.
Not these ladies. Crowder and Hollingshead can be found tearing up the poker and bingo tables at least three times a week.
“We’re big winners at bingo,” Crowder said. “Just ask anybody.”
Hollingshead said she likes to take it one day at a time.
“I get up every morning,” she said. “And that’s quite an accomplishment itself.”
Fontaine continues her volunteer work each week, and Burns, when not keeping up on current events, visits with friends and neighbors on a daily basis.
“We’ve all slowed down a little,” said Fontaine. “But not by choice.”
Burns said it’s easy to find camaraderie among her peers.
“I like all the people here,” she said. “We have the nicest people here of anywhere I’ve ever lived.”
When asked what they all hoped for in the next 100 years, the ladies laughed and offered a good piece of advice.