A supercentenarian: Freeport’s Doris Farrar celebrates her 110th

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FREEPORT — Doris “Geta” Farrar looks forward to celebrating her 110th birthday with family and friends at the Hawthorne House on Monday, June 6.

Farrar is among the state’s oldest residents, based on Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles state identification card and driver’s license records. But she doesn’t much care about that, or that the milestone will put her into the elite category of  “supercentenarian.”

“I didn’t ask to be 110,” Farrar said last week, as she was paid a visit by her good friend Olivia Stam of Cumberland, who just finished up her freshman year at Emory University in Atlanta. “I didn’t even think I’d see 90. But I can’t expect to be healthy as the dickens forever.”

The odds of getting to be a supercentenarian are about 1 in 7 million, according to L. Stephen Coles, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-founder of the Gerontology Research Group.

Coles has studied supercentenarians across the world. On the Smithsonian Magazine website, he said, “I’ve interviewed more supercentenarians than probably anyone else, trying to find out what they have in common. The answer is almost nothing.”

State Sen. Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, told of Farrar’s impending milestone, said he’ll work on a legislative sentiment to recognize the achievement.

“I think we should celebrate that,” Gerzofsky said. “I don’t know that we celebrate our older people as well as we should in the first place.”

Farrar was born in Bar Harbor in 1906. Her father moved the family to Connecticut when she was 8, and she spent her nursing career both there and in Massachusetts. She kept fit by going on long walks, skiing and horseback riding. Farrar returned to Maine in 2003. When she turned 100, she stopped driving.

Farrar, who retired from her nursing career at 70, has two surviving daughters, Sandra Drake of South Freeport and Florence Sawyer of New York. Another daughter, Phyllis Williams, has died. She has eight great-great-grandchildren.

“Four boys, four girls,” she said. “And expecting more.”

At Hawthorne House, Farrar usually goes to bed at around 10 p.m., unless she is writing letters, as she does to Stam and others. Sometimes, that keeps her up until midnight or so. She’s up when the breakfast bell rings at 7:30. Farrar professes to have no aches or pains. Her memory is remarkable.

“I read the newspaper every day, and I try to keep up with things, but I’m not happy with the way the government is standing,” she said. “I’m upset with the way the country has been going. They don’t use good language sometimes, and they don’t work together like they should. But people have little control. I pray and think about it at night.”

Farrar is happy, though, to count Stam as one of her closest friends. Their relationship goes back to when Stam was a sophomore at North Yarmouth Academy. Stam was volunteering at Hawthorne House and wrote a biography on Farrar as an English project.

“Doris and I kind of clicked,” Stam said. “After I finished the project I just kept coming in. We write each other letters, and I come in once a week.”

Stam will be studying abroad, in Paris, on Farrar’s birthday.

“I am really sad because I will miss the party, but we will have another party,” Stam said.

Farrar takes care of herself with as little help as possible. She cleans her room daily.

“I do my own self care and wash-ups, and I even make my own bed,” she said. “I don’t want anybody waiting on me hand and foot.”

Stam is impressed.

“That’s inspiring for me – for somebody my age,” she said. “She is so optimistic. She has made time for me and she gives me advice and I can feel free talking to her about anything. She tells me to be open to everything.”

Stam, studying music and psychology at Emory, has traveled overseas a few times, and always brings Farrar back a gift. One of Farrar’s favorites is a figurine of an elephant, which Stam bought in Thailand.

“She always brings something back,” Farrar said. “She is so important in my life, I feel like her grandmother.”

Edited June 7, 2016, to clarify Farrar’s standing among Maine’s oldest residents.

Doris “Geta” Farrar, an avid newspaper reader who is believed to be Maine’s oldest person, with some stories that have been written about her. She’ll turn 110 on June 6.

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