Helen Krumpe At 102: Humor Is Key

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley


At age 102, Helen Krumpe's reputation precedes her. One person after another, after hearing that I intended to interview Krumpe, smiled and expressed their delight.
“Oh, you are going to love Helen!”
“She is a hoot!”
“Oh, wait until you hear that sense of humor!”
“I want to be Helen Krumpe when I grow up.”
Krumpe seemed surprised and amused by the news that so many people express such enthusiastic affection for her.
“Well, I don't know about any of that, but I do know that I am the oldest one here,” Krumpe laughed. “And all of those kind words certainly make me feel good.”
Born in Manhattan, Krumpe grew up in Williamstown in northwestern Massachusetts. After graduating from high school, she attended Simmons College in Boston, where she learned shorthand and other secretarial skills.
“In those days, of course, the options for a working woman were nurse, teacher or secretary,” Krumpe said with a wry smile. “That's all there was. I decided to became a secretary. I enjoyed the work mainly because I enjoyed the people I worked for.”
Krumpe first visited Cape Cod as a senior in college with friends and remembers sitting in the rumble seat of the car next to her roommate. Her first impression was not exactly love at first sight.
“My friend got a car for graduation, and we drove to the Cape. It was a place to go, you know? However, when we arrived, the whole place smelled like fish,” she laughed. “I said to myself, 'I don't like this place.'”
After a few different secretarial positions, Krumpe took a job with Standard Oil in New Jersey. She met her future husband, a Navy man, around that time and fondly recalls his visit to her from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to show off a new uniform. He served on the USS Missouri and also on a light cruiser. The two married and had a son and two daughters, whom they raised in Williamstown, surrounded by an extended family. When Krumpe visited the Cape again with her husband and young family, she had a change of heart.
“I loved it,” she said. “My husband loved the Cape, and we decided to buy a house in Orleans, which I still have. My children enjoy spending time there. And my grandchildren.”
Krumpe's current favorite pursuits include playing cards weekly with a 90-year-old friend whom she says always wins.
“I guess I must play really well,” she laughed.
She also makes sure to stay up to date with current events in the world by taking in the news on television.
“I like to keep up with what is going on,” Krunpe said. “Some people may say that the best days are gone, and maybe they are, but I am happy to say that I believe I am fortunate to have lived in the best possible age. Things are different today, and this election season has not been fun, but I am very satisfied with my life and with where I am living. I find the people around me to be nice, kind and sympathetic. I just spend time doing the things that I enjoy.”