Spending time outside helps Rainville hit 100

Spending time outside helps Rainville hit 100

Smithfield resident Althea Rainville turned 100 years old on Jan. 14, and said her dog, Sydney, keeps her active. She said she owes her long life to taking the time to stop and smell the flowers. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – Taking the time to stop and smell the flowers is the secret to 100-year-old Althea Rainville’s long life, says the Smithfield resident.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, Rainville, a mother of six, celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by her family and her beloved Schnauzer, Sydney.

She credits her age and health to long hours spent working outside on her flower garden over the decades.

“I love the flowers. I worked in my garden every day. I think the trick is working outside, bending over and moving,” she said.

Rainville recalled a time she threw out her shoulder trying to move a boulder in her former Smithfield yard years ago.

“That goes with it, too,” she said.

Born in Everett, Mass., Rainville said her parents, George and Florizel Clark, moved out of Providence to rent a farm in Smithfield on the Lincoln line.

The most significant change she’s seen in her century on this Earth is the advance of available conveniences now versus when she was living on the farm. At the time, Rainville said she and her family didn’t know anything different.

“To us, we had everything under the sun,” she said while sitting in a chair by the window of her apartment at the Village at Waterman Lake.

She and her siblings would accompany her brother to milk the dairy cow, listening as he told stories. While the children were at school, her mother would tend to the garden and animals.

“She was a hard worker and a good cook,” Rainville said.

There were no buses to shuttle Rainville and her siblings to school, so her father would drive them to Lincoln Community School in the back of his truck.

Her father bought land off Limerock Road to build a house. During the Great Depression, Rainville said the farm helped ensure that the family always had what it needed, with chickens to eat and vegetables in the garden.

“My father would make up bags of stuff for people who needed it in the city,” she said.

“He even gave them chicken. He was a very generous man,” Rainville added.

After high school, Rainville worked for her father in a jewelry shop before getting married in 1940. She was a stay-at-home mother as she raised her children, then returned to the workforce once they were out of the house.

She said she worked in a machine shop putting points on electrodes the size of a strand of hair. She still has the eye loop magnifier that helped her see to do the precise work.

Her husband, George, worked as a metalsmith after serving in the U.S. Army in World War II. He died in 2007. Rainville then moved to the Village at Waterman Lake.

“It’s so quiet here. You can do what you want,” Rainville said.

And what she wants to do most often is to take a nap and care for her dog, Rainville said. She said she also likes to read The Valley Breeze & Observer every Thursday.

Rainville said the farm, where there were turkeys, hens, pigs and cows, was where she got her love for animals. She said she always kept pets, but none is as special to her as her dog Sydney. Her grandson suggested she adopt a dog after her husband died. After a search for just the right pet, her grandson arrived one day with a surprise.

“She (Sydney) was so small. She fit in the palm of my hand. We’ve been together ever since,” she said.

Rainville credits Sydney for keeping her active and alert. She said she is always chatting with the gray-haired pup, who listens to her every word.

The pair used to take walks along the trails at the facility until Rainville became less steady on her feet. She said she misses those walks, where she would often see deer at a clearing near the end of the trail. Sydney would bark at the deer, causing a ruckus, Rainville said. Now, Sydney enjoys the sun on a leash out the back door of the apartment.

“It’s enough for her in her old age,” Rainville said.