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Now past age 100, classmates reunite

Three from 1936 live down the hall from each other

If you’re that rare person who lives to age 100 — and only 22 out of 100,000 Americans make it that far — is it asking too much to be tossed back together with classmates from childhood days?

Three women of that age have their own little school reunion going at Newcastle Place, a retirement community in Mequon.

Margaret Harrigan, 100, met Flo Lindsay, also 100, in kindergarten at Atwater School in Shorewood. When she reached fourth grade, Margaret transferred to St. Robert School across the street where she met Betty Ryan, 101.

All three came together at Shorewood High School where they graduated in 1936. If there were enough classmates still around to have a reunion this year, and there definitely are not, it would be their 83rd!

But all these ladies need to do is roam the corridors at Newcastle Place to find an old school friend, reminisce about being young, share a meal and maybe get a bridge game going. It’s not like they were best friends in school, but at this age, you can’t be too choosy about who’s left.

I sat down with them this week in the library at Newcastle to hear their stories. Margaret Anders and Betty Pokorney grew up a block apart in Shorewood. Flo Valencourt lived south of Capitol Drive, a bit farther away.

This was during the Great Depression. “I remember going to Communion and I had a hole in the bottom of my shoe. I knew if I knelt down at the

“Just eat well and behave well and have fun with the opportunities to have a good life. I’m just grateful for all the blessings I’ve had.” Betty Ryan, 101 nee Pokorney, Shorewood High School Class of 1936

Communion rail which they used to have, people would see that hole. I was so self-conscious,” Margaret recalled.

After high school, all three young women went to college — Margaret to Marquette, Betty to Milwaukee-Downer College and Flo to Iowa State.

Margaret admitted with a laugh she majored in finding a husband, but also English. Betty became a teacher and served in the American Red Cross during World War II. Flo was a nutritionist.

They stepped away from careers to marry and raise children in the North Shore. Margaret and husband Richard had 10 kids; Betty and Jack had four; Flo and Jackson had three. The women all are widowed.

When we talked about how to join the centenarians club, they mentioned parents and grandparents who lived a long time. The women played tennis and golf, but I didn’t get the impression they spent hours and hours at the gym like those of us now trying to live forever.

All three raised their hands when I asked if anyone ever smoked. But they wisely quit the habit many years ago. All three still enjoy a Manhattan or spot of wine every now and then.

“I think we all had a pretty good time,” Betty said.

Each of the three offered a quick thought about turning 100: Betty: “Just eat well and behave well and have fun with the opportunities to have a good life. I’m just grateful for all the blessings I’ve had.”

Flo: “One thing is to try to help other people. It helps them and it makes you feel that you’re doing something useful. Try to laugh a lot and like people.”

Margaret: “Reach out to other people. It makes you more upbeat and alert. Forget about yourself and your woes. There’s always somebody worse off than you are.”

Contact Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or jstingl@jrn.com. Follow him at Facebook or on Twitter @columnboy.

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