Wareham’s oldest resident remembers the past, gives advice

Jun 25, 2019

Wareham’s oldest woman, Mary Rose, lives in the house she was born in on Onset Avenue in 1914.

She can remember when her father owned a candy shop in Onset before the Great Depression, and after when her father went to work in the cranberry bogs.

“I was born right in this house,” Rose said. “Upstairs, I think.”

Rose was the oldest of seven children. Only she and her youngest sibling are still around, and Rose cared for two of her siblings when they were ailing.

Her parents were Cape Verdean immigrants who met in Onset. Her parents were introduced to each other by her mother’s brother-in -law, and they got married — in a Protestant Church. They were Catholic, but due to the language barrier, they didn’t realize they were in the wrong church.

Rose said that despite some early miscommunication, they soon began attending a Catholic Church in Onset that was newly built.

“All of us could pray,” Rose said.

Over the years, Rose had a variety of eccentric pets, including a parrot who could speak Portuguese. The parrot was a gift from a woman who lived down the street, who had observed that the parrot liked Rose.

The parrot had been trained to say, “Mama, somebody’s at the door!”

In later years, Rose kept a menagerie of birds including parakeets and canaries.

“They sang beautifully,” Rose remembered.

Her most unusual pet was a chimpanzee named Tony, who had beautiful brown eyes, Rose said. Tony was mischievous, and would sneak sugar out of the bowl.

She described Onset as a close-knit community, and said that she learned English in part from a girl who lived down the street. There were so many students who did not speak English that the teacher paired English speakers up with English learners.

“You do things, somebody’s told your father already,” Rose said. “Everybody takes care of your kids.”

Marian Rose, Mary’s daughter, attributes her mother’s longevity in part to her lifelong dedication to helping others. She said that people often stop her to say how much Mary Rose helped them, and some people even call her Mother Theresa.

Mary, who worked in a nursing home for many years, often gave people rides to doctors appointments and to church. For many years, she has been part of a group that makes and donates rosaries.

“Blessings make you at ease and heal you,” Marian Rose said.

Mary Rose advised younger people to stay in contact with their families and visit their elders, and to make sure that each hour has “something quality in it.”