A Century Of Life: The Three Centenarians At The Victorian Share Their Stories

By: Brendan Samson

Topics: Aging

Centenarians Maryanne Lockyer (Left), Podgie Weissent (Center) and Rita Newman (Right) all sit in rocking chairs on the porch of their home, The Victorian in Chatham. BRENDAN SAMSON PHOTO

CHATHAM — What is the secret to a long life? Well, if you ask the three centenarians living at The Victorian, there is no secret.

The Victorian, which is located at 389 Orleans Rd., is an assisted living residence on the Broad Reach Healthcare campus. It is home to 36 residents, three of whom are at least 100 years old.

Podgie Weissent, 100, Maryanne Lockyer, 100, and Rita Newman, who turned 101 years old last week, have seen all the changes in the world over the past century, but their key to living is to just go day by day.

“I always kept active, playing golf and working, and I mean, I’ve never really given it any thought,” Weissent said.

Keeping active for some is walking every morning, but for Weissent, it was golfing until 2019, at the spry age of 96. She says it has been her favorite hobby ever since she was young, and if it was not for breaking her hip that same year, she would still be out on the course.

While Newman and Lockyer were not golfing into their 90s like Weissent, they do have the same mindset about life. Both have never given their age any thought; instead, they just enjoy “good living,” as Newman puts it, and agree that their greatest accomplishments in life are their families.

Lockyer, who moved to The Victorian from Pennsylvania in 2015 with her husband, looks back on her 100 years and is proud to see all the different generations that have come after her.

“I think my biggest joy is that in a family with four children that are now all grown and have children of their own, they're closer now with their siblings than they ever were, and they seem to enjoy each other more,” Lockyer said.

Not only are Lockyer’s four children all grown, but they have also provided her with grandchildren and great grandchildren, making their family span four generations.

Lockyer’s family always visits her at the Cape on Aug. 18, which was her husband’s birthday. This year, she will get to see her new great grandson for the first time.

“I have four children, three daughters and a son, and they've been very good to us,” Lockyer said. “I seem to have a lot of caregivers in my family, I have two daughters who are nurses and two granddaughters who are occupational therapists.”

Being a caregiver is another commonality between the three. Lockyer spent her life raising three daughters and a son, Newman has two sons, one of whom lives on the Cape now and is her caregiver, and Weissent was a nurse herself and raised two children, one son and one daughter. For Newman, raising her children was her focus.

“I raised them well, and they're doing well and that's all that counts,” Newman said. “I feel good, they got their education and they’re doing good.”

Newman was born in New Hampshire, but has lived in Massachusetts her entire life, more specifically, she has lived in Chatham since the 1950s and been able to see all the ways that the town has changed.

“A lot of building and a lot of tourism,” Newman said.

Weissent has also lived in Massachusetts for most of her life, Walpole specifically, but was born in Barnet, Vt., where she spent 11 years growing up on a farm.

“We did everything,” Weissent said. “I had two sisters and we did everything, we worked like boys. My poor father didn't have any boys.”

Now after coming from different backgrounds and different states, the three are all enjoying life at The Victorian.

“They keep us busy. They find things for us to do,” Newman said. “They have all kinds of programs going on, and if you want to participate, you can and if you don't want to, you don’t have to, but they have something going on all the time. It keeps our minds going.”

Some of these programs that are offered include exercise classes, documentaries and sports to watch and a book club. All of it is run by Stefanie Murray, the assistant director and activity director who received high marks from the residents.

“Stefanie’s just dynamite,” Lockyer said.

Even during the brief time that the interview was going on, this light-hearted spirit was evident. One staff member was dressed up in a shark costume to celebrate “Shark Week,” the annual weeklong shark program on the Discovery Channel.

“That's the thing about here, they're always thinking of different things to keep us laughing, which is fun,” Newman said. “If we didn’t laugh, we might as well die.”