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Fredonia resident turns 100

Submitted photo Josephine Christopher is pictured on a jar of Smucker’s jelly.

Fredonia resident Josephine Christopher recently celebrated a rare milestone: her 100th birthday.

Christopher celebrated the day on Oct. 12, and was given all the amenities of a normal birthday from her family. Her daughter, Mary Jo Tomkins, had sent in the birthday to the “Today” show, and while Christopher didn’t appear on the show, they still received the picture of Christopher on the Smucker’s Jar.

“When you fill out an application to the “Today” show, they call if they’re going to use the picture,” Tomkins said. “They didn’t call, but they sent back a confirmation email which had a link and the link had immediately put her picture in the jar like when it’s on TV. Smucker’s is the sponsor, so people can still have the photo even if they’re not on the show.”

With Christopher’s 100 years comes a lot of work, most of which was dedicated to children. Christopher spent a lot of her working career as a teacher’s aide for Fredonia Central School, then moved to working as a dining hall employee at SUNY Fredonia until she retired when she was in her 70s

Tomkins thinks that part of the reason Christopher has lived this long is because she spent so much time with youth.

“I think a lot of it was that you stay younger when you’re surrounded by kids,” Tomkins said. “It’s not a culture shock when kids do things. You’re used to it. If you’re not around kids, you’re not used to what they’re wearing and doing so it is harder to move forward.”

For all the work Christopher has done for kids, they’ve helped her too. Part of her birthday present, and every holiday as well, is that Christopher gets cards in the mail from some of her old students at the schools.

“All the kids called her mom and sent her Christmas cards,” Tomkins said. “And they still do.”

The other thing that kept Christopher young is walking. When she was able, Christopher would walk everywhere, whether it be to the library or taking her nephews to the old school on Eagle Street.

“She would walk everywhere instead of driving,” Tomkins said. “There was the senior center, and her and her friends would walk to the gym. She used to walk my nephews to school. When she could, she would always walk.”

Christopher still lives in the house that she grew up in, and was the first member of her family to be born in the United States, as her older siblings and parents were all born in Italy. But getting older hasn’t necessarily been a fun experience for Christopher. Even though she still has Tomkins and her two sons, Paul and Joe, she’s the only one of her friends and other family that is still around. “It’s not all that positive to her,” Tomkins said. “She’s outlived everybody on both sides of the family. She still has family but not anyone that grew up in the same time she did, through the Great Depression and everything. It makes her the sole survivor, and that’s truly the hardest part.”

“She’s said she never aspired to be 100, she only wanted 100 on her tests,” Tomkins continued. “That was her stock answer when turning 100.”

But even in spite of that, Christopher’s family is still happy to have her healthy. Tomkins said her mom only takes two medications and still lives a healthy life, and was able to have a nice celebration with her family on the day of her birthday, which featured cards from so many people she’s known over the years.

“It was tiring for her but she had a good time,” Tomkins said. “”She had a lot of flowers and cards from everybody.”

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