108-year-old woman credits God, family and good health for long life

112316...108 YR THANKS 1...Hubbarde...11-23-16...
108 yr. old Nellie Beach of Hubbard with her Great great granddaughter Brooke May, 11, of Poland...by R. Michael Semple

112316...108 YR THANKS 1...Hubbarde...11-23-16... 108 yr. old Nellie Beach of Hubbard with her Great great granddaughter Brooke May, 11, of Poland...by R. Michael Semple

HUBBARD — God, family, laughter and good health have been the key ingredients for 108-year-old Nellie Beach’s longevity.

The combination should keep her going for years to come if Wednesday’s afternoon party at the Countryside at Elmwood Assisted Living Facility is any indication. Friends and family of Beach filled the facility for her birthday celebration.

Beach, a gray-haired woman with a quick sense of humor and a wide smile, glowed as her children stood around her, proudly telling stories about their mother and making sure she heard the people who wished her a happy birthday.

Although a little weaker, slower in her walk and hard of hearing because of her age, Beach obviously enjoyed being the center of attention for a day.

A mother of five — three still living in the area and one in Texas — Beach said her happiest memories are of giving birth and raising her children. One child died at a young age.

A Hubbard resident, Beach came to the U.S. in 1922 from Yorkshire, England, when she was 14, with her mother, Lilly Meadows; a younger sister, Bessie; and an older brother, Jack.

Beach’s father, John Meadows, moved to America several years prior to bringing his family because he needed to establish himself and assure immigration officials that he could support his family, Beach said.

When Beach, her mother and her siblings arrived at Ellis Island, Beach could not immediately leave New York with the rest of her family because doctors were concerned she had goiter, which is a thyroid condition that caused her neck to swell. They kept her in New York for several months until she was cleared to move with her family.

John Meadows worked as a coal miner and her mother, Lily,  was a housewife, while they were in England. The Meadows were a church going family that attended worship services on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings.

Unlike many children today, Beach did not grow up expecting fancy gifts for her birthday or for Christmas.

“We would get some fruit in our stockings on Christmas,” she said. “Maybe a few cents.”

Beach met her future husband, Everett James Beach, during a blind date when she was 19. He died in 1967.  They had been married for 44 years at the time of his death.

She has four surviving children, Geraldine “Gerry” Hallopy, Jeanette Perry, Leo and John.

Living through the Depression and then through World War II, Beach learned early to be a hard worker.  Over time she worked at the Madison Lamp Plant making light bulbs and worked as a welder on ships for the war effort.

Nellie was one of the original “Rosie the Riveter,” who kept America’s manufacturing industry operating while many men were sent to fight in Europe and in the Asia Pacific.

Gerry Hallopy said her parents always made the holidays extra special for their children.

“When we were little, our parents would  not get the Christmas tree or put up the decorations until Christmas eve,” she said. “We thought Santa Claus had brought the tree and decorations with him.”

Beach continued to drive until she was 90 year old and wore high heels until she turned 100. She only stopped because her ankles began to swell, she said.

Blessed with good health, Beach did not have to regularly take pills or any kind of medicine until she turned 105, when she began having back pains caused by a ruptured appendix.

She lived independently in a high-rise apartment until she moved into the assisted living facility last July.

“I wouldn’t know what to do without my mother being here,” John said.

Today, Nellie has 37 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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