Irish rose turns 104
A long life of love, laughter, twists and turns
Visiting with Margaret Davoren at her kitchen table is like chatting with an old friend. She recently talked in her soft Irish lilt about the celebrations when she turned 104 on Jan. 10, and shared a congratulatory note from the president of Ireland.
Floral bouquets and birthday cards sent from friends and family members surrounded Margaret in her comfortable home at Hacienda Mobile Home Park.
"I had five children -- three girls and two boys. And I have 17 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren," Margaret said.
Her first great-great-granddaughter was born last week, and she hopes to see her at a wedding in September and to take a five-generation photo.
Margaret's life journey began near the sea in County Cork, Ireland, in 1908. Her mother died when she was a toddler, and at 18, although she was a shy young woman, Margaret yearned to travel to America where her mother's three sisters lived in San Francisco and Oakland.
"Dad said I was too young," she recalled, "but it was my idea to see my aunts."
When she found out a friend with a sister in New York was planning a voyage to the United States, the two of them went to the American Consulate.
"There was an examination, physical and mental, and my friend didn't pass," Margaret remembered, although she did. "We came back in month and she still didn't pass."
Margaret decided to leave on her own.
"I sailed that night," she said, "on the SS Republic."
First she stayed with her many cousins in New York.
"But I didn't want to stay in New York. I was meant to come to California," she said, and she boarded the train for the West Coast.
She recalled pulling into Oakland and being enchanted looking out the windows at the picturesque little houses with geraniums growing in the gardens. She found a job as a nanny for a family in Alameda.
"In three years I met husband, Stephen, who was from Dublin," she said. "He proposed to me behind the Cliff House on our first date, and we were married in 11 months."
They lived in Oakland, and Stephen worked as a streetcar man on a line that ran to the university.
"Now it's changed to buses," Margaret said. "In 1929 it was a beautiful place."
Stephen became acquainted with postal workers that traveled on the streetcar and ending up working for the postal service himself, she recalled.
In 1941 their family was growing and they began to search for a house to buy that could accommodate them. Stephen had the idea that a plot of land to work would be nice, but he was from the city of Dublin, she pointed out, while she'd been raised on a farm and knew the reality of it.
They found a house in San Leandro with four bedrooms and central heating, which she loved. Plus it was on a double lot so they had room for Stephen to "farm" and for the kids to play.
In 1984 Margaret, then a widow, moved to Pleasanton.
"I had three children here, and they talked me into coming," she said.
Her children have since moved out of Pleasanton but are still nearby.
"They take me to church on Sunday and do the grocery shopping," she said.
She accompanied one to the supermarket recently.
"I couldn't believe you can check yourself out," she said.
All the "computer things" amaze her, too, she said, and the ease of travel. She's returned to Ireland three times and been to her childhood home, which was bought and renovated by people from Tiburon. She's also traveled to England, Spain, Rome and the Holy Land.
"I took the tram to the top of Masada," she recalled.
Margaret has had sadness in her life, with the early loss of her mother, and having her husband die many years before her. Her oldest son, who would now be 80, also died a few years ago.
She said her faith has sustained her through difficulties and she thanks the Blessed Mother for the many good things in her life.
"God has been so good to me," she said.
She doesn't know how to explain her longevity.
"I walked a lot, three miles to school each way," she said. "After school I helped my father on the farm."
"It was near the ocean and so pretty," she added. "But of course it rains."
Margaret said she never cared for a lot of butter or oil, except for a little on salads.
"I love sweets but I restrict myself," she said.
She has a wealth of memories that span the last 10 decades, such as when she looked up at the sky and saw Charles Lindberg flying over.
"I said, 'That's Lindy's plane,'" she recalled. "It was 1927."
She's never regretting moving to the United States.
"This country has been so good," she said.
Margaret definitely enjoys the present, her family, friends and home. She often sits in the family room and watches the birds at her feeder, letting an adventurous squirrel nibble a little before she shoos him away. She's grateful to have no aches or pains, although she uses a walker.
Margaret plays bingo at the Pleasanton Senior Center, and sometimes at the Hacienda clubhouse. For her 104th birthday, she played for free plus was presented with a big cake.
"We gave Margaret a 100th birthday party and have given her one every year since," said her friend and neighbor Lorraine Blakley.