Grandma just called, breathless and hopeful that I could get as many copies possible of yesterday's newspaper. Tuesday's Register featured a story about my Grandfather's nanny. This woman is still alive at 100. I'm going to find her and meet her. This simple, little story means so much to me. We McGuires (really O'Sullivans) so typically identify with our dysfunction. It's important to remember the good hearts we've had along the way.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Centenarian recalls early days
NEW HAVEN — Effie Gertrude Anthony, a lifelong city resident, celebrated her 100th birthday June 8, at a brunch held at the Top of the Park Restaurant in the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale.
Anthony was born June 4, 1908. Her mother was attended by a midwife, on Eaton Street, which became South West Drive and is now known as Frances Hunter Boulevard, according to a nephew, Jim Brooks of New York City. She was raised by Mary Jane and Charles Waters, her adoptive parents. Mary Jane Waters, who had no biological children, provided a safe haven for five children whom she raised without support from any outside source. In addition to Anthony, they were Bill, Fred, Gertrude and Dolores.
Anthony is the widow of Frank Anthony and Walter Coleman.
She is a graduate of Winchester Elementary School, now Wexler Grant, the former Dixwell Avenue School and Ivy Street School. She graduated from Hillhouse High School in 1925. High school graduation was not common in 1925, especially for a black woman, according to Brooks.
Upon graduating high school, she solicited and felt she had gained employment as a live-in domestic, the only work she could find. Upon reporting to work, at the seaside summer home of a prominent local retailer, she was advised that his wife had not realized that Anthony was black, and she was not comfortable with Anthony sleeping in the same room with her son, Brooks said.
“I wonder if she thought the black would rub off,” Anthony is quoted as saying. The wage for the job was $4 a week. In tears, carrying a battered cardboard suitcase, she began walking down the road toward home. She had not walked far, before being stopped by Eleanor O’Sullivan, who would become the wife of Dr. William McGuire, a prominent New Haven pediatrician. O’Sullivan inquired as to what was wrong; Anthony told her. O’Sullivan asked if Anthony would accept a job with her; she had a young son, Paul. Anthony accepted.
That encounter was the beginning of a new career for Anthony, who became McGuire’s office manager. When the doctor died, Anthony went to work at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she became a division secretary.
Anthony has lived most of her life within blocks of the house where she was born. However, she has traveled to Hawaii, the Caribbean, England and continental Europe.
In recognition of her birthday, Anthony received accolades from all over the nation. Gov. M. Jodi Rell declared June 8 to be Effie G. Anthony Day in the state. Congratulations were received from President and Laura Bush, U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, Mayor John DeStefano Jr., the General Assembly, the Board of Aldermen, and Marna P. Borgstrom, CEO of Yale-New Haven Hospital, where Anthony formerly worked.
At 100, Anthony remains active and remarkably cognizant, said Brooks. She teased Brooks, “Oh, I am not that good, and I hope you don’t think you’re going to get paid for saying I am.”