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Woman celebrates 105 years of living

March 26, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

BOONSBORO - In 1894, Thomas Edison's kinetoscope - the forerunner of motion pictures - got its first public showing, an activist leading 500 unemployed workers from the Midwest was arrested for trespassing at the U.S. Capitol, and Grover Cleveland was president.

Meanwhile, in the tiny Washington County community of Mapleville - a world away back then - Catherine Davis was born.

On Friday afternoon - 17 presidents later - Davis celebrated her 105th birthday at Fahrney-Keedy Home & Village.

Davis, "Kitty" to her family, sat in her wheelchair as family members laid out a birthday cake. Age has taken its inevitable toll on Davis. She is hard of hearing and practically blind.

But her mind still seems sharp.

"Somebody ought to get up and dance the jig. I used to," she said.

Davis' 82-year-old niece drew a reaction when she placed her pocketbook on her lap.

"That bag weighs 35, 40 pounds. She must have had gold bricks in that purse," Davis said. "She carries everything but money."

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Thelma Jones said the house where her aunt grew up still stands. The youngest of five children, Davis married J. Franklin Davis and lived in Hagerstown until she came to Fahrney Keedy in 1992.

Even then, the only thing that prevented her from living at home later was the stairs that made reaching the second-floor bathroom a chore, said cousin Nancy Martin.

Jones said her mother, who lived until she was 93, was close to Davis. Davis' only child, a son, died as a baby. So Jones said she grew quite close to her aunt.

Jones said she returns from her home in Polo, Ill., every year for Davis' birthday.

"She can remember everything," Jones said.

Martin, who also organized Davis' 100th birthday party, said she recalls her fancy kitchen work.

"She was a fantastic cook - could make the best pot pie," she said. "That's how I know Aunt Kitty."

Martin, who lives in Beaver Creek, said she has always enjoyed talking to Davis, whom she calls aunt even though she is not a niece. Frequently, the conversation turns to how things used to be.

"She used to tell me about times - and remember, this is a long time ago - when she would visit her sister in Illinois, and there were no road signs, and she'd sleep on the road along the way," Martin said.

Martin said she tries to keep Davis up to date with the latest developments, with varying degrees of success. She recalled Davis asking her about a contraption that could supposedly record messages over the phone.

"I did try to explain it to her, but I don't know if she knows yet," Martin said.

Officials from the nursing home said Davis is the facility's oldest resident. For her part, Davis said her longevity is nothing special.

"No secrets, just keep on going," she said. "Everybody has a different time."

Davis said she was excited about her birthday, although she admitted it is difficult outliving all her friends and contemporaries.

Even in a home for senior citizens, Davis stands out.

"I don't have anybody at all," she said. "That's the sad part."

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