Press-Republican

April 17, 2013

104-year-old shares advice, life's highlights

AMY HEGGEN
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Beulah Lavarnway, 104, has visited all but three states and many other countries, but she has always resided in Clinton County.

Born in Altona in 1908, Lavarnway considers herself a jack-of-all-trades.

“I could do anything and everything,” said Lavarnway, who now resides at Pine Harbour Assisted Living in Plattsburgh.

She looks back fondly on the days she spent on her family’s farm in the Chazy hamlet of Ingraham, growing up with nine siblings.

“It was always lively,” she said.

“It was home; it was where my family was, where my love was,” Lavarnway said. “I didn’t know anything else.”

She enjoyed cooking and appreciated the food from the farm.

“You could go out in the garden when you needed it. It’s fresh. It tastes different. It tastes better,” she said.

Lavarnway also worked outdoors to help her father.

“I don’t know why, but he would have us ride horseback and drive the horse to do the cultivating. As far as I’m concerned, after a few rows, (the horse) knew what to do,” she said.

Lavarnway’s daughter Carolyn B. Smith said her mother has quite the sense of humor. Although Lavarnway has survived one of her daughters, the other two reside in the Plattsburgh area.

Despite all the skills she learned on the farm, Lavarnway said she has never milked a cow.

“That was one thing my mother didn’t want me to learn was how to milk a cow, because after I learned, I’d have to do it,” Lavarnway said.

“There’s some worldly advice,” Smith added.

Lavarnway’s first husband, Norman Donivan, and the girls’ father was a caretaker for the John. F. O’Brien estate, which was located where Point au Roche State Park is today. But after he died in 1938, Lavarnway went to work. She had many jobs, including running a restaurant with her friend for a few years and working at the commissary on the military base when it was a college, Smith said.

“I always got pleasure out of my work,” Lavarnway said. “I was doing what I liked to do.”

Smith, 82, said that her mother and her family always placed an importance on helping others.

“Something our family did well was share. It was a good lesson to learn,” Smith said. “When people would come to the house for food, we would give it to them.”

As a child, Lavarnway attended a one-room schoolhouse in Ingraham and went to Chazy Central Rural School until she was 16, when she left to work, Smith said.

Lavarnway enjoyed learning about different places.

“I liked geography. It took you around to different states,” she said.

Later in her life, Lavarnway had the opportunity to travel the United States, but she can’t pick a favorite state.

“They all had something different to see,” Lavarnway said.

She and her second husband, Thomas Lavarnway, who died about 30 years ago, loved to dance. She remembers square-dancing around the country and specifically in Texas.

“She enjoys seeing and doing different things,” Smith said. “She’s been to Ireland, the Holy Land, Turkey, Greece.”

Reflecting on her life, Lavarnway said, “Live it a day at a time.”

“I thought she would say, ‘Work hard,’” Smith said. “She used to say, ‘Work hard, and enjoy each day.’”