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Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons

Vera Harrington enjoys two of her favorites — shrimp cocktail and fried onion rings— as she celebrated her 103rd birthday during lunch at the Marina Restaurant on Monday.


Happy birthday, Vera!

Longtime Newfane resident turns 103

BRATTLEBORO—She was born six months before RMS Titanic sailed on her fateful maiden voyage.

Her lifetime encompasses two world wars, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, the Atomic Age, the Space Age, the Digital Age, and the rest of the changes and advances of a tumultuous century.

Vera Harrington has seen plenty in more than a century.

Now a resident of Thompson House, Harrington got an early start on celebrating her 103rd birthday with a lunch at The Marina restaurant on Monday.

On Oct. 8, she’ll mark her 103rd with her family with a small party at Thompson House. With four children, eight grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and one great-great granddaughter, she’ll have plenty of company.

Harrington was born at home on Oct. 8, 1911, in Mount Olive, Ill., a small town about 40 miles from St. Louis, Mo. The town is best known for being home to the Union Miners’ Cemetery, final resting place of famed labor agitator Mary Harris “Mother” Jones.

One of nine girls in her family, Harrington said her father was a coal miner, but her mother had a sister in Townshend and she convinced him to drive to Vermont for a visit.

It took many days of hard traveling over mostly unpaved roads but the family arrived in Vermont.

“The air was so good here, a lot better than in a coal mine,” Harrington said. “That was enough to convince him to move to Vermont to stay.”

Harrington was a teenager when the family packed up the house and moved to Brookline, where her father raised chickens on a farm without electricity or running water.

She married Darland Harrington at 19 in North Hoosac Falls, N.Y., and the two settled in Newfane.

Harrington wanted to be a typist — she said she could type 80 words a minute on a manual typewriter when she was in grade school — but spent her life instead keeping house and raising her family.

She moved into Thompson House a year ago, having lived independently until she was 101.

Harrington definitely has the genes on her side. Her mother lived to 100, and most of her mother’s sisters lived into their 90s. She has no real secret to longevity, other than staying engaged with life, exercising regularly, reading, and living what she calls “a normal life.”

She’s been a longtime member of the Newfane Congregational Church, and was a natural choice to be the first person to ride the church’s new elevator earlier this year.

Quilting remains one of her passions. She started as a little girl, and got more serious about it in her 50s, after her husband died. Her hand-pieced and -sewn quilts have been displayed regionally, most recently at Newfane’s Crowell Art Gallery last winter.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #275 (Wednesday, October 8, 2014). This story appeared on page A1.

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