Column: Mattituck woman is 105 and still going strong

05/26/2015 12:42 PM |
Hannah Lovett of Mattituck met former Irish president Mary McAleese for her 100th birthday. (Credit: Consulate General of Ireland courtesy)

Hannah Lovett of Mattituck met former Irish president Mary McAleese for her 100th birthday. (Credit: Consulate General of Ireland courtesy)

If you ask Hannah Lovett how she made it to 105, she’ll answer with just two words: hard work. 

Of course, to live this long, a number of other things had to happen.

Ms. Lovett rarely drank, avoided smoking, stayed mostly indoors and never got behind the wheel of a car. She has also been a social person all her life and maintains a nutritious diet, Her six kids, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren have also kept her active.

Perhaps the biggest factor owing to Ms. Lovett’s long life, however, is genetics. Every one of her 10 siblings not lost to tragedy lived to be at least 90, and Ms. Lovett is the fourth consecutive woman in her family to reach 99. Her mother died just two months shy of her 100th birthday after 40 years of being bedridden; her grandmother lived to 103; and her great-grandmother outlived them all, at 107.

Great-grandma’s family record might not last much longer though, as Ms. Lovett, who turned 105 on Friday, isn’t showing many signs of slowing down.

When she broke her hip following an overnight fall while searching for a pair of socks last September, it was the first time Ms. Lovett had ever been hospitalized other than to give birth. She was 104.

Even though she has been confined mostly to a chair in her living room for the past eight months, Ms. Lovett said she’s close to full health.

“I’m over it,” she said, noting that her physical therapist has marveled at her recovery.

To say Ms. Lovett is unique would be an understatement. She’s not just noteworthy due to her age — she knows of nobody older than her on the North Fork and the oldest person in the world has just 11 years on her — but also for how she remains remarkably sharp.

When I spent an hour with her and her 74-year-old daughter Eileen Browne of Aquebogue last Thursday, one day before Ms. Lovett’s latest birthday, the range of topics we discussed varied. The Mets were on TV, so we talked a little sports, but looking back at my notes I realized we touched on everything from family to baking to literature to politics. Yes, politics.

She thinks 2016 might be the first time she won’t vote in a presidential election.

“I don’t like any of them,” she said of the race’s early front runners.

And if you care to hear her thoughts on terrorism, she’s happy to share them: “We need to do more to stop ISIS,” she remarked.

Family remains the most important topic to her. She spoke of her husband, Michael, an engineer who died at age 85 in 1996. In 1972 they moved to Mattituck, where their home was always open to anyone in need of help, often giving family friends a place to stay for weeks or months at a time.

Our conversation was interrupted several times as she received phone calls from nieces and nephews in Ireland, who were calling not because her birthday was approaching, but because they call her every other day. When Ms. Lovett turned 100 back in 2010, many of her relatives crossed the Atlantic for the party at Founders Landing — and they’re expected to visit again next month.

A native of Ireland — she immigrated in 1928 to New York City, where she went to work as a nanny — Ms. Lovett received Ireland’s “centenarian bounty” in 2010, a check from the government for 2,540 euros. The financial reward, which converted to just over $3,000, is given to Irish citizens who reach 100 years of age.

Another part of her 100th birthday celebration was a trip to New York City, where she met former Irish president Mary McAleese.

This time around, Ms. Lovett’s birthday celebration has been much more low-key, as she continues to recover from last year’s fall.

“It’s just another birthday,” she remarked.

Something like that is easy to say when you’ve already had 104 of them.

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