Media Archive

Serving others gives 91-year-old her zest for life

Article from Bangor Daily News, Friday, May 07, 2004

By Diana Bowley
of the NEWS Staff

Milo woman writing 'a gift of memories'

MILO - There aren't enough hours in the day to suit Eleanor Heath. The 91-year-old woman crams her day with bread making - her therapy to "knead" out frustrations - housekeeping, writing poetry, typing at her computer and visiting local schools, where she tries to help children develop a sense of pride about the history in their communities.

She also stitches warm hats for cancer patients and newborns at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft and works her talented hands at hooking rugs, sewing, knitting and crocheting for pleasure, family and local benefits.

"I've got too many things going, that's my problem," Heath said during a recent interview. She rises early, makes coffee and engages herself in the daily newspaper's crossword puzzle before tending to her volunteer chores.

Heath's zest for life is contagious, and her motto, "Be thankful for what you have and find things to do for other people," is far from self-serving.

"I've always managed to be doing something for somebody," she said Thursday as she displayed her latest projects: a quilt for a local charity project, a handmade tote bag for a local Eastern Star fund-raising project and matching hats and mittens for the Kiwanis Club's Christmas program for the needy.

A powerhouse of activity, Heath couldn't sit still for five minutes as she showed off her projects in her immaculately clean home. Every chair contained either a basket of knitting or a quilt, so where she sits, there's a project she can work on.

Heath, a retired teacher with a sense of humor and a vivid memory, learned early that a productive life contributes to a healthy life.

"When we were little, we were told that idle hands were the devil's workshop," she said.

As a child, she and her three siblings were moved several times during the Depression by her parents to places where her father could find work.

"We lived in so many different towns that I went to five different schools," she explained. Sympathetic to her plight, one teacher convinced her parents to let Heath stay with her so Heath could finish the last two years of grammar school in the same location before attending the Higgins Classical Institute in Charleston.

She never forgot the sacrifices made for her, nor the advice a teacher at the Charleston school gave to her regarding the importance of setting goals in life.

Those were goals that took her through graduation in 1930 and on to a 30-year teaching career that began in a one-room school at Boyd Lake.

Later, Heath took teaching positions in Brownville, Howland, Derby, Milo, LaGrange and Atkinson, while raising a family of six children with her first husband, Elmo Henderson, who died in an airplane crash in Milo early in their married life, and later with her second husband, the late Chester Heath.

Heath looks back on those years fondly with no regrets and shows great pride in her 27 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren - seven of whom will graduate from various high schools around the United States this year and plan to go on to post-secondary education - and seven great-great-grandchildren. She is writing a "gift of memories" for her family, a task she finds pleasurable.

Like all of her other projects, Heath said she does it because she wants to do something for somebody. And she plans to continue that service for as long as possible.

"I get up every morning and thank God I can get out of bed and know who I am," Heath said. "I might have to look at the paper to see what day it is, but at least I know who I am," she said, with a hearty laugh.

And until that changes, she plans to stay busy helping others.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.