ALTONA — More than 100 family and friends marked Hattie Boulrice’s 100th birthday with cards, flowers, well wishes and much attention.
“She enjoyed every minute of it,” said daughter-in-law Carol Boulrice.
The Town of Altona proclaimed that special day, Jan. 24, Hattie Boulrice Day in her honor.
Hattie was born in Altona and has lived there most of her life.
“My mother had 16 kids,” she said. “Twelve lived; some died when they were babies.”
As the fourth oldest, Hattie helped raise her younger brothers and sisters.
“We learned to take care of kids young. We all got along well; I loved them all.”
Hattie grew up on a farm; she learned to milk the cows at age 11.
She and her siblings got their education in a four-room schoolhouse in Altona.
“No matter where we lived, it was at least a mile, 2 miles to school,” she said. “My mother would put two coats on me.”
Hattie joked that on those cold days, she might have been the only person to show up for class.
Every spring, her family camped out on the Altona Flatrock for about a month, picking blueberries to sell for 1 cent per quart.
They would gather pine boughs and ferns and cover them with blankets for mattresses, a popular spot for snakes to slither into, Hattie said.
The Flatrock was full of makeshift camps for blueberry pickers back then, as there was a big market for the fruit.
Leaving school and home at 16, Hattie worked as a nanny in Dannemora, Champlain and Altona.
At 19, she married the love of her life, Oveldia Boulrice.
She vividly remembers the winter of 1933 and 1934, when the temperature sank to around 40 below zero for five weeks, she said.
“We had a cook stove, and we had to sit near the stove all night long,” Hattie said. “The mattress was frozen.”
In 1938, the couple moved into a warmer, two-room house that she still calls home.
She and her husband, who died in 1995, made many repairs and additions.
“We built this house, and I worked right along with him,” she said.
Hattie still lives on her own, with the help of relatives, neighbors and caregivers.
She has always lived on common sense and hard work.
“I was always into something,” she said. “I took care of my garden, with my husband’s help of course.”
Hattie still tries to stay active, though she doesn’t do as much as she used to. An avid artist and crocheter in her younger years, she recently tried unsuccessfully to crochet.
“I’m going to try again, though,” she said.
Hattie and Oveldia raised four sons, Vernon, Lawrence, Daniel and Ronnie, and a daughter Betty Peryer, who all still live in the Altona or Plattsburgh area.
“You’ll outlive us all,” Vernon joked with his mother.
Today, Hattie has many grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
“If you’ve got any children, you take care of them,” she said.