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Forever young’ at heart

Neighbors: Profiles of our community

Elinor Fredricks (second from left) celebrates her centennial birthday two years ago with (from left) her son, Gary; son-in-law, Ray; daughter, Donna; and grandson, Brian. Photos courtesy Elinor Fredricks

What’s the secret to a long and happy life?

For 102-year-old Elinor Fredricks, it’s a positive outlook, an active mind and a glass of chardonnay every day at 5 p.m.

Fredricks, who turned 102 Saturday, has witnessed events most have only read about in history books. She’s lived through World War II, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, the moon landing and one technological breakthrough after another.

Fredricks was born on March 20, 1919, in Brooklyn, N.Y., but spent most of her life living on Long Island. She and her late husband, Harold, bought a Cape Cod-style house in a close-knit neighborhood on Long Island’s south shore, where they raised their two children.

Fredricks earned a degree in home economics from New York University in 1941 and went on to teach the subject at an elementary school in Tarrytown, N.Y. At the height of World War II, as part of the war effort, she supervised the production of aviation parts at a Long Island defense plant. She later worked in the bridal department of the since-closed Abraham and Straus department store, where she designed and sold dresses for nearly three decades until her retirement.

Elinor Fredricks, pictured here in 1943, has added years to her life by making every day count and always looking on the bright side.

At the age of 94, Fredricks joined her daughter, Donna, and son-in-law, Ray, in California. Six years later, all three moved to Maui. Today, Fredricks spends her afternoons reading on the family’s rear lanai (she has a particular affinity for mysteries and Jack Reacher novels), playing Rummikub and enjoying a glass of wine at 5 p.m. — a daily tradition she and Harold started decades ago. She also loves to knit. In addition to sweaters and blankets for friends and family, Fredricks has knitted hundreds, if not thousands, of hats for military veterans across the country.

It’s not every day you meet a centenarian, and when people discover her age, they are nearly always incredulous. Her daughter says a common reaction is: “Wow, you’re 102? You don’t look 102. You look great for your age. That’s amazing.”

Fredricks credits her youthfulness and longevity to a vibrant life filled with love and friendship. Her advice to others? Make the most of each day, accept people for who they are and always see the glass as half full.

“There’s something to learn and appreciate every day,” she said.

Looking back on her century-plus long life, Fredricks said, “I have no complaints about anything. I’ve had a very good life.”

* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at missruppenthal@gmail.com. Neighbors and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.

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