A Celebration Worthy of the Pennant

J.D. O’Gara
Boston Post Cane Passes to Holliston’s Barbara Chamberlain as She Turns 100
Barbara Chamberlain, who recently became a centenarian, is Holliston’s oldest resident.
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

Avid Red Sox fan Barbara Chamberlain was thrown a pitch perfect birthday party on April 11th at the Holliston Senior Center on the day she turned 100 and received the Boston Post Cane from Holliston Town Clerk Elizabeth Greendale. Festivities at the Senior Center included citations by Holliston Town Administrator Jeff Ritter and Rep. Carolyn Dykema. The Boston Red Sox even sent their Sports Announcer and Poet Laureate, Dick Flaven, along with their 2004 World Championship Trophy, to recognize Chamberlain on the day famed Red Sox player Ted Williams would have turned 100 as well.
100 doesn’t feel any different to Barbara, she says, aside from her recent acquisition of a pacemaker. She was an only child who lost her mother to the flu epidemic of 1918, when she was just six months old. Her daughter, Janet, is her only natural child, although she’s the step grandmother of two by marriage, and step great grandmother of two girls.
Barbara fondly remembers her time as a nurse.
“I was an RN, and that was my life – delivery room nurse and in my later years, I was working at the Wellesley College Infirmary,” she says. “It was a good life. I enjoyed it.” These days, she says, “you don’t get the nursing care you used to get, you don’t get the relationship you used to get, now that everything is done on the computer.” Chamberlain says that she had great camaraderie with her fellow nurses.
“I worked at South Shore in the delivery room - I was there for almost 20 years. It’s a great connection, you miss it when it’s gone,” says Barbara. She left her final job, as Director of Briarwood Nursing Home in Needham, when she was 59, following a heart attack.
“The doctor made me quit, so I quit,” she says.
Chamberlain was sure to stay active, however. In fact, she’s been an active Grange member for 79 years, (her daughter, Janet Horne, even threw separate a party of 85 for her at the Dunstable Grange).
“It was before computers and kids being involved in sports,” says Chamberlain, “so that was the thing to do, to go to grange. I was more involved in grange than anything else in life.” In fact, says Chamberlain, her stepfather, a hay farmer in Needham, was one of the seven founders of the Grange, which has always involved women as equal members to the men.
“I also worked at the Senior Center for 17 years answering the phones,” says Barbara, who was 98 when she finally gave up driving. The once avid tennis player still enjoys bingo from time to time at the Senior Center, although she no longer plays bingo in Ashland, where, she says, she is thankful for the close friendships she developed.
“In addition to being receptionist here she also volunteered for our Fall Craft Fair,” says Linda Marshall, Director of the Holliston Senior Center. “She was an avid crafter, donating to us and to the Grange needlework, crocheting, plastic canvas – you’d always see her working on something.” Marshall credits her friend Barbara with “taking me under her wing,” when she was a newcomer to the Holliston Senior Center. The then Director felt safe leaving Marshall alone with Barbara to help her along.
“Of course, I have Janet, but Linda is like another daughter. She’d do anything I’d ask her to do, and another Debbie, who lives in Milford,” says Barbara.
As to her secret to a long life, Barbara, who never drank and quit smoking back at age 59, says she keeps going by “looking forward to what’s going to go on the next day.” In fact, she routinely looks forward to Red Sox games, staying up until all hours of the night to watch them when she’s visiting the west coast.
“I didn’t look back,” she says. “I look ahead to what’s to come. Mainly, they’ve got to stay active. You’ve got to have some goal to go by.”
As for what she thinks is her greatest accomplishment, Barbara pauses for a second and nods, with a look of affection, toward her daughter Janet. “This one,” she smiles. “I couldn’t ask for a better carer than Janet. She’s been wonderful to me. I only had one, but I was lucky,” says Barbara, who says Janet’s late husband was great, too.
“I’m most proud of my daughter. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”