News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 8, 2016
Happy 108th, Mary Cousins

Celebrating over a century

Mary Cousins will celebrate her 108th birthday on September 20. Cousins’ life has spanned over a century, most of which has been spent living in her home community of Stonington.

Photo by Monique Labbe Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Monique Labbe

Four years ago, Mary Cousins was given the Boston Post Cane, which designated her as the oldest living resident of Deer Isle. She was 104 years old.

Four years later, the Island Nursing Home resident closes in on her 11th decade, just days away from turning 108 on September 20.

Cousins’ life has spanned over a century, most of which has been spent living in her home community of Stonington. The oldest of three daughters, she started working at an early age as a telephone operator, which she did for over 10 years.

“I really liked that [job],” said Cousins, during an interview in her room at the Island Nursing Home. “I felt important, and it was so interesting. All the different plugs and wires, I was learning all the time.”

Learning is something Cousins always strives to do, she said, because at an earlier time it was uncommon for a woman to be as educated as a man.

“I always wanted to do what the boys were doing,” she said. “I didn’t want to be one of those girls in the corner. No, I wanted to learn something.”

It was that mentality that led her to becoming the first woman in the state to be a licensed ham radio operator, communicating with “important” people all over the world as a first class operator, she said.

“I was proud of that,” said Cousins. “I was the only girl who was doing it. I saw all the boys were doing it and I said ‘well I want to do that,’ so I did it.”

Cousins said that all the men she communicated with were respectful of her and treated her professionally, despite the fact that she was a woman.

“My handle was WONGSC, which stood for One Good Sweet Child,” she said with a chuckle.

Cousins has always been involved in her community, and most may know her for her time as the librarian at the Stonington Public Library.

“Oh, I loved the library,” said Cousins. “I enjoyed the people I got to see. It was the last thing I ever did [before retirement].”

Cousins was a librarian until 1998 before retiring at the age of 90.

“She’s a tough cookie,” said her son, John, during a telephone interview Tuesday, September 6. “She was always doing something, both her and my dad. They were constantly involved in something.”

In fact, Cousins and her husband were common faces at Deer Isle-Stonington High School athletics events, selling hot dogs and popcorn to raise money for new equipment for the sports teams.

“They raised money for new glass backboards [in the gym], and my dad and other volunteers put up the backstop at the baseball field,” he said.

Cousins had many hobbies and interests that took up her time while not working. She enjoyed drawing and painting, as well as sewing.

“I somehow ended up being the person everyone in town would come to if they needed clothing sewed,” she said. “But I enjoyed that, I love to sew.”

Cousins has survived both her sisters and her husband, as well as two daughters. She has nine grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren, all of whom she has met.

After 108 years of life, Cousins said she is unsure what the secret is to staying around for so long.

“I couldn’t tell you,” she said with a laugh. “All I know is that I’m here, and I’m very thankful and happy for that.”