ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) -- Irene Davey's life came to an end after 104 years but her feisty attitude, sharp wit and patriotic spirit will no doubt be with us for decades to come.
"She was still water skiing at 70," he daughter Patricia Desmarais said. "She learned at 50!"
And she enlisted at 34, deciding it was the only option when her husband Harold volunteered to fight for his country as World War II started heating up in the 40's.
"And the only thing that I said to him was honey, if you go in, I'm going in," Davey told us during a celebration of her 102nd birthday.
So, began the military career of Attleboro's favorite daughter, who during the war drove trucks and recruited soldiers. But it was during the decades after the war when she gained statewide notice for her wit and patriotism.
"I don't think she really like politicians," one of Irene's friends said after her funeral. "I watched her really let them have it."
But she often expressed her love for country.
"I think this was the first year she missed the Attleboro Veterans Day parade," Desmarais said.
"Remember, you're an American first," her mother told a crowd in her still strong voice at her 102nd. "I am!"
She drove until she was 99 and always seemed younger than her years. Desmarais remembers walking into a room to find her son riding grandmother Davey as if she was a horse. When she suggested to her mom that shouldn't do that for risk of injury, she received a quick response.
After she passed away about 60 days short of 105, Irene's family heard again and again how special she was.
"People came up to me to say she was like a mother to me or a grandmother," Desmarais said.
Fellow World War II veteran Mickey Zito, now in his 80's, met Irene when he delivered groceries to her apartment when he was 16 years old.
"She was the most beautiful woman in Attleboro," he said with a smile. "She really was."
Still beautiful into her 100's according to Zito but Davey was a bit more humble.
"Can you imagine I used to look like that and I look like this now?" she said, gesturing down to the picture of a younger Davey on the frosting of her birthday cake 2 years ago. "What a shame."
The room erupted with laughter. Her wrinkles could not hide her smile, her patriotism and her willingness to share her experience.
"We may look a little withered but there is much here that we can transfer to the younger generation," she said.
Irene did just that as a poet, a mother of 3, a wife, and a fiery veteran with countless stories. But more than a century of life was still not enough for the people who loved Irene.
"She's been around so long you just think she's always going to be there," Desmarais said. "It's a loss."
"I'm so honored," Davey said after receiving a proclamation from the City of Attleboro. "Can you imagine that I am just little me and these people are out here for me? Now, if my legs would go as fast as my mouth,"
And through all those stories, the oldest veteran in Massachusetts lives on.
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