Although she is technically a few months shy of her 100th birthday, Katherine Bach, one of the earliest residents of Peconic Landing, was among the 13 centenarians recognized with proclamations courtesy of New York Senator Anthony Palumbo at a celebration last week.
Ms. Bach, who lived on Shelter Island for approximately two decades before taking up residence at Peconic Landing, has lived a life of ups and downs, filled with health scares, love, prayer and artistic passion. She shared but a sliver of her life experiences and lessons learned with a reporter from The Suffolk Times Wednesday. Here is some of the wisdom she has to offer:
Do something for yourself
After raising her three daughters and two sons, Ms. Bach took to art, which became a lasting passion.
“I said ‘honey, now it’s my time,'” she said. “It was a beautiful release.”
Her Peconic Landing Apartment and various other hallways throughout the campus are adorned with pastels and acrylic works she painted over the years. She even founded the community’s art club and recruited the community’s first art instructor.
“I got several other people to come in and teach art,” she said. “We were only a small group, I think we had 18 members. Now it’s so big, bigger than life.”
Enjoy the present and think the future through
Ms. Bach advises people to contemplate their next move, and ensure they keep good company.
“Don’t do something on the spur of the moment,” she said. “Think it through, no matter what you want to do … Pay attention to what’s going on; enjoy, whatever you’re doing. And make sure the people you’re with are people you really respect. You know what’s good and what’s not good, so trust yourself.
Choose the right partner
Of all the people one keeps in their circle, a life partner is perhaps paramount.
When asked what single day out of her more than 36,000 stands out as most important, Ms. Bach said the day she married Hans Bach. They were married 63 years before Mr. Bach died at age 82.
“I think when I first met him, he threw snowballs at me,” she recalled. “I think I was only about 13 [or] 14. Of course there were a lot of little boyfriends in between but he kept coming back … There are blessings that come in life that you should be grateful for and take advantage of.”
“He was such a upstanding person, really,” she added. “I thought I was strong; he was stronger.”
Persevere through the bad times
It’s a miracle Ms. Bach has lived the life she has. After enduring a severe injury as a child, she realized nothing could keep her down.
“I fell when I was four-and-a-half-years-old … fractured my skull,” she said. “My mother and my father and my family prayed to St. Therese, ‘the little flower’ … and voila.”
“I fell two-and-a-half stories from the back porch over the garage,” she added. “So I’m very fortunate, I really feel I’ve got a guardian angel on my shoulder.”
When asked about the best advice she ever received, Ms. Bach said it was wisdom her mother imparted. Much like how she persevered through her own health struggles throughout the years, she learned perseverance is critical for a romantic relationship to last as long as she held onto Mr. Bach.
“My mother used to keep a lot of string to tie things up, but she had a lot of knots in them,” she recalled. “I said ‘I can untie the knots,’ and I kept doing it one day. She said, you know Catherine, [there’s] one knot you can’t untie, and that’s the marriage knot.
“I think that stuck with me cause, we had a lot of ups and downs,” she continued. “My husband had a double aneurysm in his brain at 35, and I was having my fifth baby.”
Don’t forget to dance
Growing up, dancing to the sound of one of her parents or siblings tickling the ivories of their piano was Ms. Bach’s sole source of entertainment. Her husband danced with her, even as he entered his eighties, and her toes keep on tapping as she eyes 100.
“My husband was in a motorcar, and even though he couldn’t get up and dance, he would take his hand and spin me around,” she said. “And with the grace of God, I’m still dancing.”