In this world there are probably few people who celebrate with a “bash” on their 103rd birthday, but few could compare with our lovable Frances Alexander Schipper. She is our “always happy, ready for a good time” lady.

The celebrating began on May 13, a day early for her actual birthday. Her friend Mel asked to take her to breakfast at the Rockport Diner, their usual haunt. But when they arrived, the place was filled with her friends and “kids” from when she taught third grade at the Elm Street School, during the Great Depression. Her “kids” are now in their 80s. They had a lovely cake with roses on it, and flowers to launch the celebration of Fran’s birthday.

The following day, she was still planning and pacing herself for the big event. It was not exactly the quiet day anticipated, because friends were calling on the phone and sending flowers.

On Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m., the Quarry Hill reception room became alive with love, laughter and lively music. Coney Devanney, accompanied by her piano player, began singing with joy, and people joined in.

Fran’s 103rd Birthday

Now was it just a year ago

That we were gathered here

To hear a poem and have some grub

And spread some birthday cheer?


I do believe that was the case

And Frances was the one

Who was the guest of honor there

When things were said and done.


Today she looks around the room,

And one thing she can see

Is all her friends are getting old.

Yes, that means you and me.


We draw our social every month

And join AARP,

But do our best to hang around

With younger company.


But, Frances, she is in the pink

And looking mighty fine.

I hope to hell I look that good

Next year at sixty-nine.


She’s found the secret to long life;

It’s with her every day.

A smile and only loving thoughts

Keep Father Time at bay.


She’s always thinking years ahead

Of what might be in store.

I’ll bet she’s got the guest list made

For birthday one oh four.


And when she thought the rates

At Quarry Hill here would increase,

To guarantee her future rooms,

She signed a ten year lease.


Paul McFarland

Paul McFarland Jr. read a poem he had written to Frances, as he has each year on her birthday. There were solos, duets, choruses, audience participation and all were songs to the birthday girl.

Mike McFarland sang and played, as he had at each of her birthdays. With Parker Laite Sr. as master of ceremony, there was not a dull moment. Charles Cawley and his sister, Coney, sang duets. J. Brian Smith, Parker Laite, Cawley and Devanney formed a quartet with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and many others of that era.

Jimmy Whitney sang “Good Night Irene” and several others. He yodeled as only he can do, knowing that Frances really does enjoy hearing it. Then several Irish songs were beautifully sung by Mike Flannagan of the Quarry Hill staff.

While Coney was singing one of her many lively tunes, Doris Heald Rolerson put on a scarf dance. With her three-inch heels, Doris danced and twirled to the music, never forgetting that she was a dancing teacher for many years. The tiny, lively lady gracefully moved about, but many people did not know she had recently celebrated her 100th birthday. It was a joy to watch her perform.

Meanwhile, delicious hors d’oeuvres were served by John Roy, a wonderful chef at Quarry Hill.  Among them were lamb chops, shrimp, tenderloins, cheese puffs, coffee, champagne and tarts, plus other goodies that everyone thought were just perfect.

There were approximately 100 people who came out on that rainy day just to wish Frances a very happy birthday. She greeted them in her lovely salmon/pink dress, purchased for her party. Her smile and jewelry lightened up the room. Fran is an inspiration to all, and one of her secrets I shall tell: She loves everyone. Her love radiates and returns love. She is young in looks and action, although she celebrated 103 years of age.