Enfield Senior Center shares residents' secrets and stories

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Fri., Aug. 23, 2013
Sophie Krzys, Charles Comparetto, and Wanda Rembisa talk about living through th
Sophie Krzys, Charles Comparetto and Wanda Rembisa talk about living through the Great Depression. Photos by Calla Vassilopoulos.

Wondering about the secret to longevity? According to 95-year-old Jack Jacobson, good luck, God, and the right pills keep you alive well into your 90s. Jacobson was one of six panel members to share his story at the Enfield Senior Center on Aug. 14.

“Volunteering means a lot,” said Marguerite Duprey, as she shared her secret to longevity. “If you keep your mind on other people's problems you don't have room for your own problems. I have been a commissioner on aging for 13 years, and I think it's probably time for me to resign, but something just tells me to keep going.”

Sophie Krzys agreed with Duprey in that volunteering was important. Krzys said keeping her mind going outside of her home and volunteering as much as possible has helped her. She said everywhere needs volunteers and it's the biggest thing you can do for the community.

Since Krzys's eye doctor diagnosed her to be legally blind, which caused her to lose her license, she has had limited mobility. Though she often has to stay at home, she said many of her friends give her rides. Of the six seniors in their 90s, Krzys was the only one not driving, however.

“Driving is my life right now,” said Wanda Rembisa. “I can go where I want and do what I want and I thank the Lord every day for bringing me back home safe.”

At 97 years old, Rembisa works every day taking care of her son's many pets; then she goes home and does her household chores. She also knits, crochets and makes dusters out of rug yarn and wire clothes hangers, which she gives away to whoever wants them. The life-long Enfield resident said keeping busy and keeping her hands working have contributed to her wellness.

As Rembisa spoke about her life growing up on Spring Street in Enfield, she recalled being the only Polish family on the street. She said as a child she was responsible for taking care of the chickens and the pigs. Rembisa remembered mothers standing in line to milk the cows in order to have milk for their families.

“The first time I saw Thompsonville, it might have been about 70 years ago, I went back to Hartford and told people, 'You wouldn't believe it. It's a little place with two-family houses, sidewalks and fire hydrants just like the city, but it's so small,'” said Jacobson. The Hartford native moved to Enfield in 2007 from Windsor Locks, where he lived for more than 40 years. He said at the time most people could not afford cars.

Rembisa said there were a few cars in Enfield when she was growing up, as well.

Another topic of discussion was the Depression, which Krzys said was not that bad because everyone was in the same boat. In fact, she thought it was better, because at night all the neighbors gathered and played games together because they did not have the money to do anything else. However, many had to choose between work or school.

“If I was able to get a job during the Depression, I wouldn't have gone to high school,” said Jacobsen. “But I couldn't get a job, so I graduated. I was the youngest, and my older brothers used to needle me all the time, 'Go to work, go to work.' There was no work, so I went to school.”

Panel member Charles Comparetto said when he graduated high school he tried to get a job in the Bigelow factory, but because he had a diploma they said he was over-qualified. He said he and Sophie were among the students in the first “big class” to attend high school. Others typically went to work in the Bigelow factory after middle school.

Rembisa also talked about the Depression and how she had to quit school to work in the tobacco warehouse. She was responsible for helping to feed her family. She said she was paid under $2 a day and was lucky to get 10 cents a week to go to the movies.

Though there were tough times throughout their lives, the panel was happy to live and tell. For John Gabriel, the best part about being in his 90s is watching his grandson attend officer training school and become a navy pilot. The others expressed appreciation for being able to take care of themselves and to be still breathing.

“I know I have lived almost the limit of life,” said Comparetto. “Other people have to wonder whether they are going to live until 90, I already lived to 90. Everything from now on is roller coaster.”


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