MALONE — When Polly Murphy was born, the hamlet of Skerry wasn’t surrounded by the town of Brandon. When she went to SUNY Potsdam, it was still called the Potsdam Normal School.
On Thursday, Murphy celebrated her 101st birthday at the Farrar Home in the village, as she works through the second pandemic of her lifetime.
“I lived through one pandemic, I guess it was the year before I was born,” said Murphy, adding encouragement that people “see the light“ at the end of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Although the so-called Spanish flu is most associated with the year 1918, it lasted well into 1919.
An avid bridge player, Murphy shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
“It’s very stimulating to be able to play bridge and keep it up,” she said.
Although the current pandemic has kept Murphy from playing her regular games of duplicate bridge, she still keeps sharp with the New York Times Sunday crossword. And an extra challenge gets added when clues lead her to names of celebrities she’s never heard of.
“Sometimes I get into people that are younger than I am,” said Murphy.
“I don’t keep up with the younger generations.”
But even if contemporary celebrity doesn’t top the list of Murphy’s concerns, her daughter Molly McKee said she still keeps herself up-to-date and informed.
“She has a keen mind and is interested in current events,” said McKee.
Murphy has been through three surgeries and moved into the Farrar Home last year after she broke her hip.
“She’s a feisty lady,” said McKee.
But after all she’s lived through — surgeries, pandemics, world wars, depressions and recessions — Murphy never lost her sense of humor.
McKee got a call from her mother as she was going to pick up Murphy’s birthday cake Thursday to tell her “Good morning. It’s me. I made it,” McKee quoted her mother as saying.
Even at 101, Murphy holds onto a youthful glee that comes with celebrating each passing year.
“She’s on cloud nine today,” said McKee.
Soon after being born in Skerry, Murphy moved to Malone, where she’s spent her time since. It’s where she met her husband, who she began seeing in the eighth grade. Tuesday would’ve been their 77th wedding anniversary.
“I have all the letters Dad sent to Mom while he was in the service and she was in college,” said McKee.
Murphy contributed to the community with her time as a teacher at the Duane and Park Street schools, and was an avid golfer in her day.
She’s also never shied away from learning new things later in life.
According to McKee, Murphy learned to drive later on. McKee remembers being around 6 or 7 years old, when she and her sister went with their mother to her driving test.
She’s also picked up new skills just to put on a show.
“She learned to roller skate when she was 60,“ said McKee, for the “hospital follies,” a talent show-like event Murphy participated in.
She also didn’t get her ears pierced until she reached 80.
With all of Murphy’s experiences and stories comes wisdom and advice for those younger than her.
“Always be optimistic and do unto others as you would want done unto you,” she said.
“Think of the other person and always respect other people.”
McKee echoed a similar sentiment that she learned from Murphy, but added another word of advice her mother gave her; “Don’t make a face like that. It’ll become permanent.“
Murphy continues to be grateful every day for her time on earth.
“I’m happy to be alive today.“