orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

National News

July 30, 2011

New Hampshire woman toasts 110th birthday with leg kicks

WINDHAM, N.H. — She's lived under 17 U.S. presidents, through six major American wars, endured the Great Depression and buried three husbands and both of her children.

Yet on her 110th birthday Tuesday, Catherine "Katie" Dion, preferred to remember the here and now, including her regular exercise regiment: leg kicks, arm lifts, twists, stretching and marching in place.

"It is so long ago," Dion said about old memories. "I was young then."

Now, she said, family is what remains important to her. Family such as her four grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

"She's amazing," said Susan Pike, owner of Grace House, Dion's assisted living residence where the normal age is 92.

What's the secret to these long lives?

"Probably moderation," said Pike. "None of them have a wild past."

Dion didn't disagree, noting that she sips a single glass of her favorite wine, white zinfandel, at Grace House's weekly "Happy Hour."

Born on the family farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada, Dion worked for years in textile mills in New England and into her 70s as the lunch lady at a vocational high school in Lawrence, Mass.

Woodrow Wilson was president when her family moved to the United States. Since then, the country has fought World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.

She's also one of the few Americans still living who experienced the Great Depression, and is among the country's oldest citizens.

Granddaughters Diane Beland and Marcie Blackington attributed her longevity to a strong will, gentleness and sense of humor.

They said she once married a man 12 years younger than her, and told him before the ceremony: "We'll get married. If it doesn't work out, you can go back with your mother."

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Details for this story were provided by The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

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