Jaffrey grandmother turns 105-years-old

  • Daughter Eleanor Lambert of Jaffrey, left, niece Shirley Arceci of Winchendon, Mass., and great-great granddaughter Julia Somero, 4, of Rindge wish Delma Ouellette of Jaffrey a happy 105th birthday during a celebration in Jaffrey on Sunday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Claudia Lafortune, 8, of Jaffrey, left, awaits anxiously as her great grandmother Delma Ouellette of Jaffrey opens a gift Lafortune knitted for Ouellette's 105th birthday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

JAFFREY — “Not many kids turn 105-years-old,” said Eleanor Lambert, 83, of Jaffrey at her mom’s surprise birthday party Sunday. “But I thank God my mom has. She’s my best friend.”

Five generations of family members gathered Sunday at a home on Turnpike Road to celebrate the woman who they call “Mèmére” — their hero. Hugs, kisses and smiles from family and friends greeted the birthday girl Delma Ouellette of Jaffrey as she sat near a double-decker chocolate cake that was topped with three candles marking her 105 years.

But for Ouellette, who still lives by herself in an apartment in Jaffrey, the celebration Sunday wasn’t about her age. Rather, she said, it was about being with the loves of her life: her six grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 17 great-great-grandchildren.

“This is wonderful,” Ouellette said, as she looked to her family members, many of whom had lined up around the dining room table to see her. “I’ve got all these cards and gifts here, but you should see how many I have at home.”

Among the gifts she opened Sunday was a knitted item that Ouellette’s 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Claudia Lafortune of Jaffrey, had made especially for her “Mèmére.”

“She wanted to show me she could do it,” Ouellette said, adding that knitting is a hobby she shares with her grandchildren. “I’ve never knit anything for me, though. It’s always for someone else.”

Ouellette recalled more than six decades ago when she knitted her only daughter, Eleanor Lambert, a dark pink sweater which she still wears today.

Lambert was 16-years-old when she received the sweater from her mom as a gift. It’s a present, Lambert said, she’s held close to her heart ever since and let her five daughters borrow throughout the years, too. They all wore the sweater when they were in high school. “But I always said, ‘This goes nowhere. I need it back,’” Lambert smiled.

Ouellette’s first-born granddaughter, Candace Kilduff who now lives in New Britain, Conn., said her grandmother has unconditional love for every member of her family. Kilduff recalled dressing up in Ouellette’s clothes, in particular her plastic high-heels, or “glass slippers” as the kids called them.

“I remember when I came home sick from school one time, I was in kindergarten,” Kilduff said. “But Gram made me feel better with lollipops and dress-up.”

Ouellette has always had a “green thumb,” too, Kilduff said, adding she continues to be fascinated by how her grandmother can make anything in her garden grow healthy and tall. “She could put a pencil in a flower pot and it would grow,” Kilduff laughed.

Born on Oct. 28, 1907, in Winchendon, Mass., Ouellette grew up in the same town. She married Emile “Jack” Ouellette of Jaffrey in 1926 and the couple continued to live in Winchendon, until about 45 years ago, when the couple moved to Jaffrey.

Ouellette worked in the Final Bearing Inspection room at New Hampshire Ball Bearings until the age of 65 and, then, went to work in the cafeteria at Conant High School for a number of years. Her husband passed away in the early 1980s.

Ouellette is the longest living member of her father’s family, she said. And when asked about the secret to her long life, she replied, “The good Lord don’t want me yet and down below they don’t want any competition. That’s how come I’m still here.”

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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