Cumberland’s Benjamin celebrates a century

Cumberland’s Benjamin celebrates a century

Lucille Benjamin, at her home in Cumberland, will celebrate her 100th birthday next Thursday, Oct. 17. (Breeze photo by Melanie Thibeault)

CUMBERLAND – At almost 100 years old, Lucille Benjamin, who lives at Chimney Hill Apartments in Cumberland, says the most important thing to do is exercise her brain every day.

“Always remember, keep that brain going,” the Woonsocket native told The Valley Breeze. “If it doesn’t work every day, you start slowly losing it.”

Benjamin, who goes by the nickname “Benji,” will celebrate her 100th birthday on Thursday, Oct. 17, with a party at Wright’s Farm with several dozen family members. When she was younger, Benjamin said, she didn’t think she would live to be 100. “The days just went by. That’s it,” she said. “I kept busy … I like to do things.”

To stay active, Benjamin likes to spend time at the Cumberland Senior Center where she says the people are very nice and caring. She attends bingo on Fridays and plays cards on Mondays, she said.

She also likes to read and crochet, making afghans for adults and children who have cancer, she said.

“I enjoy doing that,” she said. “It passes the time away.”

She still drives and does all her own cooking from scratch, she said. When people express surprise that she still cooks her own meals, Benjamin says, “I gotta eat.”

She said she doesn’t eat a lot of fatty foods, and one of her specialties is a fish pie. She plans to make squash pies for Thanksgiving, though says she doesn’t make her own crusts anymore.

“I’m very independent,” said Benjamin, who doesn’t need a hearing aid or a cane.

Benjamin, whose maiden name is Galipeau, was born on Oct. 17, 1919, in Woonsocket to Alice Lafrenay, the fourth of eight children. Her father wasn’t in the picture, she said.

After her mother died at age 33, in 1928, she and her siblings were separated and six of them went to an orphanage, said Benjamin, who attended school at St. Ann’s in Woonsocket.

“It was difficult,” but she managed and learned to be independent, she said.

At age 21, she married George Benjamin, a widower from Woonsocket, who was 18 months her senior and had a young son.

Her advice is to never get married before 21. “I didn’t know (anything) about marriage,” she said. The couple was married for 53 years, living in Woonsocket for 38 years before moving to Florida.

George worked as a service manager for Ford and also sold his photography to the Woonsocket Call, while Benjamin stayed home to raise their children and spent her time volunteering, she said.

The couple had three daughters and Benjamin raised George’s son as her own, she said.

Benjamin’s children are Lorraine Bowmiller, who lives in New Hampshire; the late Jeanne Farrar; Denise McMahon, who lives in Texas; and Ronald Benjamin, who lives in Pawtucket and visits her every Sunday.

She also has six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

“They’re all over the place,” she said. “I don’t get to see them too often.”

Benjamin has lived in Cumberland for the past 20 years. “I love it here,” she said. “It’s quiet.”