On Friday, June 12, Rena Fischer turned 100 years old, and her extended family joined her in celebration. Rena lives on Beetlebung Farm in a small house adorned by a sign, “Rena’s Beauty Shoppe,” that once hung outside her last beauty shop, conveniently located next door on the farm. Rena is lucky to not only have family still on Island, but also a warm-hearted caretaker, Kerlynn Stanley, who also briefly cared for Rena’s husband, Albert O. “Ozzie” Fischer Jr., who died at his home on July 26, 2011, at the age of 96.
Rena was born in Limestone, Maine, the seventh of 10 children (six boys and four girls). After both her parents died young, Rena moved to Hoquiam, Wash., to be brought up by her aunt and uncle. She finished school, then moved back east to Cambridge, where her sister Marie had started a beauty shop. Rena completed her beauty training and joined her sister, who named the shop for both of them, calling it Marina’s Beauty Shop.
Rena clearly misses her “sweet husband” Ozzie. Rena clearly knows she cannot always remember things, yet her warm smile, patience, and great sense of humor keep her spirits up, and keeps anyone who talks with her on their toes. When Kerlynn brought over a photo album, Rena happily pointed out old photos of herself, a photo with Ozzie on their wedding day, and enjoyed showing us some of her favorite pictures from the past.
Valerie Sonnenthal: What was the most mischievous thing you can remember doing in grade school?
Rena Fischer: I used to write notes to the fellows. I went to a Catholic school; they didn’t like that.
VS: When was the first time you took a plane?
RF: To fly east from Washington to visit family.
VS: Did you have a favorite pet growing up?
RF: I was brought up by my aunt and uncle. He was quite strict and didn’t want me to have a dog. One time when he was out fishing on his boat, I brought home a puppy. And he fell in love with it.
VS: Tell me about your parakeet (singing in the background).
RF: My daughter gave it to me, for Mother’s Day. It’s named Sid, after an old boyfriend.
VS: Are birds your favorite pets?
RF: I love birds, have had many parakeets. I also love dogs.
VS: When did you first come to Martha’s Vineyard?
RF: I came to work in the summer at my sister’s seasonal Edgartown beauty shop, also named Marina’s, like her shop in Cambridge.
VS: How did you meet your husband?
RF: I went to a dance, just down the road [at the Chilmark Tavern]. After he asked me to dance, he never asked another girl. I knew right away he was the one. He was a wonderful man, even though he didn’t know how to dance. I had to teach him how to dance.
(Albert, her son, later added: “Dad asked her to dance and she replied, ‘Why, I don’t even know you.’ My father answered, ‘Oh come on, Columbus took a chance.’ They danced the night away.”)
We wish Rena continued good health, much joy, love, and good company.