According to a story last month in the Bangor Daily News, 105-year-old Millie Rennie of Springvale was the oldest person in the state, and thanks to the York County Elder Abuse Task Force’s Wishing Well Project, got to fulfill her wish to meet President George H.W. Bush.
It was a feel-good story – except for one error of fact, which the paper later corrected. Rennie is not the oldest resident in the state of Maine. Last year, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap surmised that Freeport resident Doris “Geta” Farrar, now 108, held that distinction.
The mixup doesn’t seem to matter much to Farrar, though relatives were surprised to see the Bangor Daily News story.
“I don’t feel as if I have to be very proud of it,” Farrar said last Thursday from her residence, the Hawthorne House. “I just face up to whatever is. My mother used to say, ‘What will be will be.’ It’s always paid off for me.”
Granddaughter Kim Callnan of Pownal, who visits Farrar twice a week, said she doesn’t know if her grandmother holds the distinction.
“I really don’t know, because they don’t have documentation,” Callnan said. “A relative mentioned that Bangor Daily News story to me.”
Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for Gov. Paul LePage, wrote in an email that she is unaware of her office providing the Bangor paper with any information regarding Maine’s oldest resident.
“A woman had read that same article about Millie Rennie, and wrote us to find the source, as her great-aunt from Windham is 106,” Bennett said. “Staff within the Office of the Governor offered to send her a letter from the governor, but with the understanding that we have no way of knowing who is the oldest person in Maine.”
Farrar has plenty of other things to occupy her time. She wheels around the Hawthorne House visiting people, and gets plenty of attention from staff. Sometimes, she uses her walker.
“She’s very alert and with it,” Callnan said. “We have a connection, my grandmother and I.”
Farrar, who got the “Geta” nickname as a child, moved from Bar Harbor at the age of 8 with her family to Connecticut, where her father had found work. She spent her nursing career in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and didn’t come to Maine until 2003, well after she retired at age 70. She stopped driving when she hit the century mark.
“My head is full of things that have happened in my life,” Farrar said.
Farrar, a mother of three daughters who divorced her husband in the 1940s, kept up her active lifestyle, which has included skiing, horseback riding and long walks.
She celebrated her 108th birthday on June 6, with a big birthday cake, a plate of fried shrimp, a Reuben sandwich from a local chef, and yet another visit from the media. A student journalist interviewed her, and now visits every week.
Among the memories that fill Farrar’s head are some fascinating recollections of incidents in her daughters’ lives – Callnan’s mother, Sandra Drake, and Florence Standinger are still alive, but daughter Phyllis has died.
Farrar didn’t say which daughter was involved, but has a recollection of a day in 1956, when one of them graduated from Bates College. Farrar drove two of her daughters and a friend to the big event.
“We rode at the head of an eye of a tornado,” she said. “People wanted me to stop at a garage, but I tried to outride it. Everything turned coal black. Everybody thought that we were probably wiped out. Things fell on top of my car, and the water was coming down in torrents. Something told me, keep driving and stay calm, which I did. We finally got to the graduation.”
And Farrar got her name in the local newspaper – something she’s accustomed to now – for her wild ride.
Another intriguing story regarding her daughters comes from their wedding day. Two of them had a double wedding in Portland, then set off on their honeymoons.
“They stayed at the same hotel in Boston, without even knowing it,” she said.
Farrar still reads the daily newspapers – not that she likes what she reads.
“I get a little bit bothered about what’s in the newspapers,” she said. “The first thing they put on the top of the page is something bad that’s happened. There’s so much evil going on.”