Press-Republican

October 9, 2013

Centenarian takes one day at a time

AMY HEGGEN
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Grace Allen, known fondly as “Amazing Grace,” celebrated her 100th birthday on Sept. 27 in the house she built with her husband decades ago.

“The whole front section (of the house) was a medical center,” she said. “They came day and night.”

Her husband. Dr. Jonathan Allen, who died almost 10 years ago, was a physician at CVPH Medical Center. But patients also came to their house, located within walking distance of the hospital.

Grace ran the clinic.

Ten years older than her husband, she was 39 when she had the first of her four sons.

Her children, David, Peter, Paul and Jonathan, kept her young, she said. She traveled the country, camping with them.

“I couldn’t let them go without me,” she said.

She also traveled internationally with her husband.

“We got back from our trips all over the world, and we always said, ‘There’s no place like home,’” she said. “We live in part of heaven right here; it’s home.”

’ONE GRAND STORY’

Throughout her life, Grace wrote down her memories, and with the help of a daughter-in-law, compiled the writings with letters and family pictures to create two volumes, “How I Got to Be Me” and “How I Got to Be We.”

”I was a writer by nature,” Grace said. “After the boys went off to college, I wrote every week, and I always saved a copy of the letters.”

Although she hasn’t published her books, her family and friends have enjoyed the stories and the old family photos.

“My life is one grand story,” she said. “Just wonderful.”

Grace grew up on a farm in Michigan with two younger brothers.

“It (the farm) gave me the right beginning,” she said.

Her earliest memories include the time her neighbor’s sons returned from World War I, singing a popular song from 1919, “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm.”

“They were in uniform, and that impresses young girls,” Grace said.

’LIVE IN THE MOMENT’

After studying at the University of Michigan, she taught math near Detroit before joining the Navy during World War II. While stationed in Washington, D.C., she met and married Jonathan, who was a Plattsburgh native.

The Allens moved to Plattsburgh to raise their sons, where Grace taught at Plattsburgh High School and was an avid member of the Plattsburgh United Methodist Church. 

She still enjoys reading, keeping up on the news and learning something new every day.

“That’s part of being alive,” Grace said.

Her advice is to live one day at a time, and as a reminder to herself, a poem about living in the moment hangs on the wall in her living room.

Five women come to Grace’s house to help care for her, though she can still get up and go on her own.

“They make such a difference in my life,” she said.

Her dog, Sadie, also plays an important role in the household.

“Without Sadie, I probably wouldn’t be here,” Grace said.

“That’s the way it is,” she explained with one of her catch phrases.