Cora Watt, turning 100, leaves her family legacy in needlework

Cora Watt of Warren turned 100 years old on Thursday, and her entire family is traveling from all over the U.S., and some from Sweden, to celebrate this big day. The celebration will be held Saturday at Warren Holiday Inn.

Cora is modest about her age and her life.

“Just seems like another day,” she said. “Just changed the numbers, that’s all.”

To what does she credit her longevity?

“I never smoked, and I never drank,” Cora said, then thought. “I’m lying just a little bit,” she added seriously.

“We drank a little when David was in the drum corps; a glass of wine or something.”

Cora also can thank genetics for her long life. Her mother’s sister lived to 101, and many family members on her father’s side lived into their 90s.

“Dad lived until he was 97,” Cora said.

Cora and her husband, Fred, raised three boys, Tom, David and Gail. Tom lives in Warren with his wife, Mary Lou, and David, the oldest, lives in Virginia.

Tom and Mary Lou are Cora’s care givers, so she can remain in her own home.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Cora shared.

Although Cora’s modesty precludes her from sharing much about her personal life, her grandchildren are not so reluctant.

“My grandmother is exceptional because no matter your age, where you live and how busy she is, she is always interested in what is going on in your life,” said Kajsa Haracz, one of Cora’s five grandchildren. “She makes us all feel special. Also, it’s a blessing to have my grandmother be part of my children’s lives. All of my kids know and love her; she made their tooth fairy pillows, Christmas stockings, afghans with their favorite colors, and baby clothes, just like she made mine. My grandmother is as much a grandmother today, as she was more than 30 years ago when I spent my first summer with her without my parents.”

Haracz is the daughter of Cora’s youngest son, Gail Watt. Her parents live in Sweden and she grew up there, but now she lives in Wilmington, Del., with her family, including three of Cora’s 11 great-grandchildren.

“Nana taught me how to sew my Girl Scout patches and bake cookies,” added Beverly Watt Bertolini, Cora’s first grandchild, who lives in Peach Tree City, Ga., but grew up in Warren. “She taught me to value family and friendships. Nana is always supportive and would offer advice. She would often say, ‘Life isn’t always easy. Try to make the best of it and don’t give up’.”

For her 95th birthday, the family compiled a book of photographs of many of her creations, thanking her for her “love for your family … By your hands’ work, you have made each and every one of us feel special – the hallmark of a wonderful mother.”

Cora remembers moving to Warren as a young adult. Even though she grew up on a farm in Lander, when she moved to Warren in 1933 it seemed a long distance.

“We had a car,” she said. “We just didn’t come” to Warren much.

“I came to Warren to work, like all the kids did at that time,” Cora said. She was a live-in housekeeper.

“I did everything,” she said, laundry, child care, cooking and dishes, for a family of four.

She met her husband, Fred, in Warren.

Courting in those days was “going to church and back,” Cora said, laughing.

She and Fred were married soon after.

Cora was a stay-at-home Mom, in charge of the boys, and Fred was a janitor. For extra cash, Cora took in laundry. She washed and ironed; for many years she did laundry for Burt and Jack Levinson who owned Levinson Brothers department store in downtown Warren.

Men didn’t take care of kids back then, Cora said, of raising the boys. Men didn’t “do baths.” Fred was though a Scoutmaster for his sons, and two of the boys, David and Tom, earned Eagle Scout honors.

Fred died in the 1970s.

Cora spent her life caring for her home and her children, then eventually her grandchildren, loving them every step of the way. Now, as her body has slowed, she enjoys a little TV and continues some needlework, but she’s not producing as much as she once was.

She has made hundreds of items, from stockings to afghans, needlepoint art to the flags for the Cornplanter Drum & Bugle Corps that David participated in. She even made Kajsa’s wedding dress

Cora reflected on the changes in our culture over the past 100 years, noting how different everything is, like groceries and grocery prices.

“Seems as if … I got all our groceries in one grocery bag for the week,” she said.

Cora’s best advise?

“Keep your nose to the grindstone, and don’t get pulled the wrong way.”