Bangor woman turns 103

Posted Jan. 03, 2009, at 4:07 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Phyllis Coffin, who turned 103 on Saturday, broke into song during her birthday party.

“If you get her started on one song, she sings and sings,” Joan Hileman, a caregiver from A Loving Touch of Bangor, said of the centenarian.

Phyllis Tourcotte was born in Boston on Jan. 3, 1906, and was a nurse there in her earlier days, working at Mass General. She moved to Maine after meeting and marrying Dr. Silas Coffin, a physician from Bar Harbor.

Relatives from all over the state, friends and caregivers donned colorful Hawaiian leis for the birthday party at her Bangor home. Making an appearance were two grandchildren, a great-grandchild and a son-in-law.

Other relatives called to wish Phyllis a happy birthday, including grandson Silas Deroma of Los Alamos, N. M.

Grandson Seth Libby, 42, of Bar Harbor, held the phone for his “mam-me” during the calls.

He said his grandmother’s “French-Canadian tenacity” and her determination are reasons she has lived so long.

“Right up until the time she was 80, she would go down [to a family farm] and clean brush,” he said. “It’s all in the genes. She’s outlived all of her kids” and her husband.

There are many things that his grandmother has taught him, but her lessons on table manners stick out as a strong memory, Libby said.

“It was reinforced,” he said, a huge smile across his face. “That butter knife flew like a sword.”

Phyllis, who wore a pink suit for her birthday, also was adorned with a tiara and lei. She sat in a chair and at first didn’t know why people were rolling into her home.

“My birthday isn’t until January,” she said to Hileman when the caregiver first arrived.

After she explained to her that it was her birthday, Phyllis smiled and just said “thank you.”

“She stopped celebrating 10 years ago,” her grandson said.

A neighbor added that last year, when she was 102, “she wouldn’t open her presents.”

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