Kathryn “Kitty” Reynolds says the key to a long life is having a healthy appetite.
Kathryn "Kitty" Reynolds says the key to a long life is having a healthy appetite.
And she would know.
The Newark-area native who now lives at Heritage at Milford turned a 104 on Monday, becoming the oldest resident at the assisted care facility off South Dupont Boulevard.
"I love to eat," said Reynolds, who celebrated her special day with a "Downton Abby"-themed party that included a grilled cheese and vegetable soup lunch followed by cake. "I'm amazed I'm not a short, fat [woman]. I'm short, but I'm not fat."
Reynolds said she never imagined she'd one day be celebrating triple-digit birthdays.
"My Lord, I never even heard of someone being 104 when I was growing up," she said. "I think it's funny."
Born the same year as former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, bandleader Benny Goodman and actor Errol Flynn, Reynolds grew up on a farm in the Kirkwood area of New Castle County as the second of four children.
She said her fondest memories of her youth are summers she spent visiting a wealthy aunt and uncle in the Philadelphia area.
She later attended Goldey-Beacom College, which then was known as the Wilmington Commercial College, where she studied to be a secretary.
After marrying her husband Andy in 1930, Reynolds worked at the former National Vulcanized Fiber company in Yorklyn, Del., where she worked on an early computer system, according to her 86-year-old sister-in-law Ethel VanHenkle of Harrington.
"She wasn't always the sweet old lady you see today," said VanHenkle, who was married to Reynolds' younger brother, Victor, in 1944. "She was tough and you couldn't stop her."
After Kitty and Andy retired, they travelled the country several times over in motor home, typically spending the winters in Brownsville, Texas.
"We loved to travel and went all over," she said Monday. "But we were together and that was the most important thing."
The 1990s were a difficult time for Reynolds, who lost her husband, the couple's daughter Joan Tresnak, her son-in-law and her last living sibling, all in just a few short years.
"After Andy passed away, we got her a dog she named Buffy," VanHenkle said. "Then later, she got another dog and named that one Buffy, too. Those dogs became her world and she became well acquainted with her neighbors while taking them out for walks."
For a time, Reynolds lived with VanHenkle in Harrington, but moved in at the Heritage at Milford in 2010 after her sister-in-law became ill.
Melissa Heverin, the guest services director at the Heritage said Reynolds, or "Miss Kitty" as she's known to the staff there, still enjoys her favorite hobbies like crocheting, knitting and her greatest passion: playing bridge.
"I love to play and I'm good at it too," Reynolds said Monday. "I bet I could beat you."
While she might pre-date the Boy Scouts of America, Oreo cookies, prohibition and bubble gum, Reynolds said she continues to look forward to what the next year of life will bring.
"I guess I'll do alright just going along, the same as I always have," she said.