BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Genevieve Eilers, the oldest resident at Job Haines Home, celebrated her 105th birthday on Monday, Oct. 1. She has been a resident at the Bloomfield facility for nine years.
Executive Director Noreen Haveron said when she first arrived, Genevieve showed that she was an independent woman. She decided she wanted to leave and took a taxi back to her Kearny residence. But a niece convinced her that the move was best and she returned.
In an interview with The Independent Press, Genevieve said she returned to Job Haines because “there was nowhere else to go.” Her niece, she said, thought the assisted living residence “was less work.”
But she also said she was born in Jersey City and lived on Beacon Avenue, just off Hudson Boulevard. A sister later worked as a nurse at the Margaret Hague.
The Margaret Hague was a maternity hospital named for the mother of Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague, who was mayor from 1917 to 1947.
Genevieve said she worked at various clerical and secretarial jobs, mostly in government, and at the city hall in Jersey City. Asked if she knew Hague, she said yes then immediately quoted a statement attributed to him: “I am the law.”
“I remember Mayor Hague very well,” she said. “When he came into the office, there was a boy there who would shine his shoes.”
She also recalled when a Jersey City ordinance was passed permitting women to sit at bars serving alcohol.
“He said, ‘It’s legal now to have ladies sit at the bar and I am the law,’” Genevieve said.
Her father worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and her mother was a was a homemaker. She had a brother and two sisters.
“I have many nieces and nephews, but they’re spread all over,” she said.
Asked if her family had any pets when she was growing up, she said no, but her mother saw a kitten on the street one cold day.
“She brought it in,” she said. “I said, ‘Momma, you don’t like cats very much.’ She said she did. That was a lie. She couldn’t stand them.”
The kitten went into the basement until the weather turned warm when her mother put it out again, Genevieve said with a smile.
Her mother also taught her to sew.
“I made a dress for myself,” she said. “My nephew was getting married and I wanted a pretty dress. I couldn’t find one I liked, so I made it and went to my nephew’s wedding.”
Genevieve said for two years she worked in Washington, D.C., with U.S, Rep. Alfred Sieminski. Sieminski was a Democrat who represented Jersey City and Bayonne from 1951-58.
“I remember Capitol Hill,” she said. “I needed an apartment. I went where all the ladies were.”
She was told she would have to wait weeks for a place to live. Then a woman found out she worked on Capitol Hill.
“I had a room 45 minutes later,” she said.
She married after she returned from Washington.
“It was a late marriage,” Genevieve said.
Her husband, John, died in 1968. They had no children.
“He owned a small company that cleaned chimneys,” she said.
She said she watches the news “all the time” from 6 to 7 p.m., but does not like most of it.
“Shootings all the time,” she said.
Asked for the secret for living to 105, Genevieve said to just live a normal live with “no excess of anything.”
After her interview, she was wheeled into her birthday party. There was cake, a singer on the keyboard, a seated audience and applause.
The singer was Bruce Foster. He introduced each song with Genevieve’s age the year it was first recorded. The music could be heard along the first floor of the facility and gave the area a festive feel. Sun was shining brightly through the curtains.
In the office of Lorraine Krug, the director of social services at Job Haines Home, Krug referred to her file on Genevieve. It was noted that Genevieve was a high school graduate, enjoyed reading The New York Times, had lived in her own home for 60 years, was of Polish descent and had worked as the assistant town clerk in Kearny.
At the party, the cake had been distributed. Foster was singing.
“And here’s a song for the 105-year-old wannabes,” he said.
“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you’re young at heart,” he sang.
This was “Young At Heart,” a 1953 song popularized by Frank Sinatra. Genevieve was 38 years old in 1953.
“For it’s hard you will find, to be narrow of mind, if you’re young at heart,” Foster went on.
The audience was attentive and Genevieve was seated with a good friend, another Job Haines Home resident from Kearny.
Then Foster spoke.
“And here’s a line written just for Genevieve,” he said and then back into the lyrics.
“And if you should survive to 105, think of all you’ll derive out of being alive,” he sang. “And here is the best part, you’ve had a head start, if you are among the very — young — at — heart.”