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Meeting Alice at age 108

Alice Fischer with her late grandson’s wife, Deidre Whitcomb, of Norwood.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Alice Fischer with her late grandson’s wife, Deidre Whitcomb, of Norwood.

“God bless her.”

That was the reaction of an 88-year-old woman struggling with her walker as she watched 108-year-old Alice Whitcomb Fischer scooting down the hall, using her feet to propel her wheelchair to lunch. With the aid of her walker, she took the final steps to the table.

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Fischer, a resident of Harrington House in Walpole, is accustomed to amazing people. She was born on Dec. 23, 1905, when Roosevelt was president — Teddy Roosevelt, that is.

Since then, 18 other US presidents have taken office; the Russian Revolution was followed by the creation and collapse of the Soviet Union; and the radio came into use.

Though Fischer’s hearing and sight are not what they used to be, her memory is sharp and her smile and stories endearing.

“I was always very busy,” Fischer said when asked about her life.

Though she is a few years younger than 114-year-old Bernice Madigan, a Cheshire woman who is believed to be the oldest resident of Massachusetts, she is part of a small group. According to 2010 figures from the US Census Bureau, there were 91 people in the state ages 105 to 109.

Fischer was born in Manchester, N.H., and moved to Fall River. She recalled working at a candy counter when she was a student at the Fall River School of Commerce.

As a girl, Fischer said, she enjoyed going to the ice cream parlor and the movies, such as “The Perils of Pauline,” a 1914 film serial.

She also loved to dance, doing the fox-trot and another step that she was trying to recall.

“I’ll remember it as soon as you leave,” she joked with a reporter.

After she was married, Fischer lived with her husband and son on a farm in Westford, where they enjoyed apples, peaches, and other garden offerings.

“We were so happy,” she said. “I’m so glad I lived at the time I did.”

She also worked as a school secretary, a personnel department employee at an aircraft company, and a bookkeeper at Betro’s Pharmacy in Walpole, working first for the owner, then when he died, the owner’s son.

“You just work hard and take each day that it comes,” Fischer said.

Fischer has outlived her son and grandson, but she still enjoys the company of her grandson’s wife, Deidre Whitcomb, and two great-grandchildren, ages 30 and 32. She is now hoping for great-great-grandchildren.

Whitcomb, of Norwood, said she can recall Fischer in her 80s, tooling around town in her grandson’s Mustang.

For the past two decades, Fischer has lived in Walpole, where she is a founding member of the senior center. She will have been at Harrington House two years this summer.

Times are different now, Fischer said. “We were responsible to our families. We did pretty much what we were told, and we were told to do it.”

She recalled giving her earnings to her mother when she began working and being home at the time she was told to be.

Fischer has fond memories of her travels to Europe and Canada, where her parents were from, and especially her visit to the Grand Canyon and seeing the sunrise there.

“It was so beautiful I cried,” she said.

These days, Alice Fischer’s travels rarely take her much farther than down the hall, but she is still social, the workers at Harrington House say.

Therese Rizk, director of recreation services at Harrington House, said that Fischer has told her she has always kept busy.

That is probably why she is as healthy as she is now, Rizk said, that and her caring.

“It’s a privilege to know Alice,” she said.

Jean Lang can be reached at jeanmcmillanlang@
gmail.com.
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