When asked what the secret to her long life is, Josephine Richardson gave a shrug. “I take it as it comes,” she said.
Richard will turn 100 years old on March 8 and will celebrate it in Spring Lake, where family members from across the county and even overseas will come to celebrate her centennial with her.
“I’ve been fortunate that I have not had any major illness or anything like that,” she said.
She seems to get embarrassed easily with all the attention.
“I grew up uptown, near 54th Street,” she recalled.
She moved to her present home on Kennedy Boulevard after graduating college in 1945.
For years after her retirement as a teacher at Woodrow Wilson School in 1979, former students still called her “Miss Richardson,” and often stopped her when she was shopping in town to recount their time with her in the classroom. Even when she was being treated at one point in Bayonne Medical Center, workers at the hospital recalled her as their teacher.
Coming into her house is like stepping back through time, as the smell of home cooking came from the kitchen and the old-world interior with upholstered chairs gave the house a sense of timelessness. The interior of the house exhibited a scene that could have existed at any time during her long life.
A lifelong resident of Bayonne, Richardson said for her, the city hasn’t changed all that much.
“Bayonne is pretty much the same place – rather quiet,” she said.
A parishioner of St. Vincent’s Church, at her age and her need to avoid catching things like the flu, Father Eric has to come to her house. These days the priest comes to visit her and is expected to bring her sacraments prior to her turning 100.
She spends her time at home, watching TV – something she didn’t have growing up. Richardson frequently listened to Big Band music on the radio and other programs. Her favorite TV show is “Wheel of Fortune.”
The daughter of Thomas and Anna Fox Richardson, she grew up in a large family, although she has outlived her siblings John Richardson, Margaret Richardson, Mary Heffernan and Kathleen Leehan.
Multiple occupations for family
Her father was a boilermaker who also, for a time, especially during the Great Depression, made milk deliveries out of Richardson’s Dairy on 55th Street.
The family also had a farm near Princeton to which they went each summer, and grew and harvested a number of items.
“It was a very good farm,” Richardson said.
They grew things such as corn and string beans; she said she liked freshly grown corn the best.
During World War II, they were fortunate because other people faced rationing and her family always had food to eat.
She recalled shopping on Broadway, going to local restaurants or into local shops. She used to shop at Barney Stock, the Klothes Kloset, and Mann’s Shoe Store on Avenue C.
She said liked to travel to Journal Square in Jersey City to shop and at one time worked in New York City as a salesperson. She took the bus to Journal Square at the Path – which she called the tubes – to Manhattan.
She graduated from St. Vincent’s School and later from Bayonne High School, attending Jersey City State Teacher’s College for two years before going onto Seton Hall College, from which she graduated with her bachelor of science degree in 1945.
She went onto to become a teacher at Woodrow Wilson School in Bayonne, where she taught for almost 30 years, retiring in 1979.
Before and after her retirement, she traveled the world, visiting most of the countries in Europe and the Middle East. She remembered going to Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.
She took many vacations with other teachers prior to her retirement, other single women who shared her interest in visiting the world. She and these people became great friends.
She would often bring back what she learned on these trips to incorporate in her classes.
These were times before the Internet existed, and teachers tended to remain in class teaching all of the subjects.
She traveled to Mexico and Egypt, and recalled standing at the foot of pyramids there.
But her favorite place was Ireland, where after her retirement for many years, Josephine maintained a summer home, in Russelstown County Tipperary, not far from where her parents were born. She is still in contact with some of her family members there.
During her visits, they would ask, “How long you staying here at home this time?” suggesting that her real home will always be Ireland and that no matter how long she lived elsewhere, she would always be coming home when she went back to Ireland.
But she said she preferred living in Bayonne.
“I take it as it comes.” – Josephine Richardson
Richardson will celebrate her birthday at a luncheon in Spring Lake, N.J., where she had maintained a summer home for more than 50 years. Her 12 nieces and nephews will host the lunch. Many of her 16 great-nieces and great-nephews and two great-great-nephews are expected to attend, as well as many of her friends and neighbors. Some family members are coming from California, others from London, and still more from other parts of the United States.