Born hours apart in same hospital, friends celebrate 90th birthdays

Born hours apart in same hospital, friends celebrate 90th birthdays

Dorothy Morrison, left, was born May 18, 1927, and her friend Louise Stephenson was born a few hours earlier, on May 17, 1927, at the Providence Lying-In Hospital. The two women, now best friends who call each other “sisters,” met as residents at Atria Lincoln Place and learned they were likely in the same nursery as infants, and grew up just streets away from one another in Providence, shopping at the same stores. (Breeze photo by Brittany Ballantyne)

LINCOLN – They call one another “crib partners” and sisters. Celebrating their 90th birthdays this week are Louise Stephenson and Dorothy Morrison, who reconnected later in life, after they were born in the same Providence hospital hours apart.

At the time, the Providence Lying-In Hospital had one big nursery, the two said. Both joked that they likely had some of each other’s formula by mistake. Stephenson was born late at night on May 17, 1927. Morrison was born May 18, just a few hours later, they explained.

They’re best friends now, but Stephenson and Morrison, in unison, said they’re “more like sisters,” as they clutched one another’s hand at Atria Lincoln Place, where they met about three years ago.

They’ve been inseparable ever since.

“I’ve been with Dottie since I came here,” Stephenson said.

“I trust her with my life,” Morrison said of her friend who helps her when her memory fails.

The two spent their childhood days growing up in Providence just streets away from each other. Though they lived nearby one another, their home locations meant they attended different parishes and parochial schools.

They shopped at the same stores and markets, like Hathaway’s Bakery, purchasing day-old bread, carting around large bags of loaves. Both of their families had a budget to maintain, they explained.

They seemed to have just missed one another while growing up and working in the state, they explained, but now spend their days playing bingo, blackjack, rummy and bocce together, sharing laughs and getting dolled up at the Atria salon.

Morrison impresses Stephenson with her musical memory, and remembers the words to every song from the “olden days,” Stephenson said, like “Show Me the Way to Go Home.”

A pianist visits their home during the week, Stephenson explained, and Morrison belts out the melody of the tunes. She sang in a group with her family while growing up, Morrison explained.

Morrison was the third child born of 11 siblings, so by the time she had four kids of her own, she knew what it took to raise children. At 16 years old, Morrison said, she left school to work and help out the family.

“We never had anything given to us. We worked for what we got, and we appreciated it,” she said.

Morrison worked at the Acme textile mill in Providence until she married Donald, who has since passed away.

She ran a machine in the mill, Morrison said.

“It was a man’s job, and I did it,” she said.

Around the same time, Stephenson joined the American Red Cross as a volunteer nurse. She was 16 at the time.

Stephenson later became one of the first paid nurses’ aides at Rhode Island Hospital around 1945, and served at Roger Williams Medical Center, previously called Homeopathic Hospital, The Miriam Hospital and the state prison, where she worked until she retired in the 1990s.

Stephenson married her first husband, Earl Stephenson, and raised two children while she worked. After he passed away, she remarried the late Edward Richards.

Morrison, who moved to Cumberland after she married, worked for the school district as the head cook for over 20 years.

One of the Cumberland School Department’s former principals, John Smith, still visits Morrison.

“That was a big responsibility, making sure all those schools got their meals on time,” Stephenson said of her friend’s work.

The cooking didn’t stop after she clocked out at school, Morrison quipped. At home, she made pies cakes, “you name them,” she said.

Now, the staff members there do that work for her.

“This is our time to relax,” Stephenson said.

Today, Thursday, the two are expecting to celebrate their birthdays during a party.

Asked how they reached the 90-year milestone, the two said staying healthy was a priority. Raising children and grandchildren made that necessary, they said.

Morrison has seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Stephenson has five grandkids and four great-grandchildren.

“I consider myself very lucky,” Morrison said.

Stephenson said, “I never thought I’d reach 90, and I’d say it’s from hard work. Both of us have worked hard all our lives.”