For 100-year-old Caron, it’s about learning to play the cards you’re dealt

For 100-year-old Caron, it’s about learning to play the cards you’re dealt

Florence “Flo” Caron celebrated her 100th birthday at Oakland Grove Health Care Center on Aug. 31. Among those who celebrated with her are, from left, son Bob Caron, great-granddaughter Laura Caron and grandson Dan Caron. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – Florence “Flo” Caron has had more time than most to practice her hand at cards, but she isn’t bragging about her skill with the deck. Instead, the century-old Woonsocket resident knows to wait and see the hand she’s dealt before she calls the outcome of a game.

“It depends upon the cards you have,” she said when asked if she usually wins her favorite games of pitch and canasta.

Caron, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday at Oakland Grove Health Care Center, wasn’t always dealt the easiest cards in life, but, just like in her favorite games, she learned to play them with grace and skill. Born on Aug. 31, 1918, she grew up on Brook Street and spent her teenage years in the midst of the Great Depression.

“It was alright until the Depression. The Depression, I think, was hard on everybody,” she recalled.

To save money for her family, Caron, who was born Florence Petrin, often took meals at the home of her employer, Samuel Medoff, a prominent Woonsocket businessman who once served as president of B’nai Israel Synagogue on Prospect Street. She worked for many years as a maid in Medoff’s home and also raised four boys of her own, a role she told The Breeze was equally hard work.

“I just knew that I had to do it on account of my children,” she said.

In the midst of all the work, however, were many good times. It was her brother who first introduced Florence to Leon Caron, a Navy sailor who later served as drummer in a band. Their first dates met some resistance from her mother, though not because of any objections to the young man. Instead, it was his Model T, a car that was old even for Caron’s day, that made the older woman nervous.

The couple raised their children on Winthrop Street in Woonsocket but had a summer home in Fairhaven, Mass., where they spent much of their time at the beach on Buzzards Bay. Her son, Bob Caron, recalled his mother’s many recipes for freshly-dug shellfish, as well as her protective motherly instincts that didn’t always make the most sense to her children.

“We couldn’t go in the water until she showed up, and she’s the only one who didn’t know how to swim,” he recalled with a laugh.

These days, Caron spends much of her time reading and playing Bingo, though she still has plenty of energy to devote to her family, including her four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. She celebrated her 100th birthday with a party at Oakland Grove, where she was surprised and honored to see her many family members gathered for the occasion.

As for her secret to a long and happy life, that’s one hand, it seems, that isn’t up to her to play.

“That’s what God wants, so I think I just have to go with that,” she said.