by Carol Higgins Taylor
Eastern Area Agency on Aging
I’m always on the prowl for inspiring and interesting seniors, and while there is certainly no shortage of them, sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose.
So is the case with my mother Margie Higgins. She has been a career woman all her life and at 85, is still working, currently as a foster grandparent, a program through Penquis. She is stationed at Job Corps and is having the time of her life. She loves the students she is working with and is very proud of their accomplishments, beaming and bragging like a true grandmother.
“Margie is a dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer, she is regarded with respect and admiration by Job Corps students, faculty and the Penquis Foster Grandparent Program,” said Maria Staples, project coordinator, Penquis Foster Grandparent Program. While considered volunteers, the Foster Grandparents receive a small hourly stipend.
Margie grew up in Trenton, the eldest of seven children. Her start in life was not easy. She was diagnosed with polio two days after her first birthday. But thanks to the Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children in Springfield, Mass., three surgeries by age 12, and her perseverance, Margie learned to walk and has led a normal life.
Margie was 10 years into her marriage before finally having a baby. She was widowed three years later. A second marriage ended in divorce.
Her admirable work ethic started early with her first job at the Rainbow Roller Rink in Trenton. She was 11 years old and paid 50 cents for a five-hour shift as the coat-check girl.
She has a “can do” attitude that has served her, and others, well. The devastating forest fire in 1947, which engulfed Bar Harbor and much of eastern Mount Desert Island in flames, was not about to burn without her. Margie recalls that time with sad nostalgia.
“I refused to evacuate but rather stayed at the firehouse and served coffee and food to the weary firefighters,” she said. “I’ll never forget the heavy smoke, high temperatures and high winds. From upstairs at the firehouse, you could see buildings burning. I still have the pass issued to me by the chief of police to go back and forth to the island.”
Margie’s love of the legal profession tightened its grip when a friend introduced her to the world of court stenography. Her interest in that business grew and in 1968 she formed her own court reporting company, working in both state and federal courts.
A touch of wanderlust took her to the West Coast, where she continued her career in the legal field. As is true for most people who leave Maine, she returned about a decade later.
She worked for several attorneys in the area before retiring a few years ago. And yet, she didn’t really stop working but instead changed her focus. One might say, given the joy she gets from being a foster grandparent, she might have had a successful career as a teacher.
When Margie is asked about stopping work, the reply is always, “Why would I want to do that? What would I do all day, and the kids need me.”
We all do. My mother and I live near each other, which initiates comments from people such as, “how nice that you can look after her.” Truth be told, we’re about equal in the “looking after” department. She’s always at the ready if I need something.
Margie has a unique love of garage sales and grocery shopping (which I did not inherit) and is constantly asking if I “want anything at the store.” Regardless of my answer, she’s off, armed with a fist full of coupons, which always end up saving her a surprising amount of money.
She has raised coupon shopping to an art form — as she has done with everything else in her life.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
Carol Higgins is communications director at Eastern Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865 or go to eaaa.org.