Florine Rogers turned 90 last week and it was quite a surprise for her to see the Tisbury police coming up the road to help her celebrate. It was a milestone birthday after all, and her granddaughter arranged the birthday honors. Rogers couldn’t celebrate with a big bash this year, thanks to the pandemic, but she has big plans for a gathering that will include the whole family — 11 grandkids and 11 great-grandkids — maybe this summer if things quiet down.
Rogers has lived in the same house on William Street for 60 years, and was born and raised on the Island. She even has the same telephone number she had when she first moved in, even though party lines are no longer around. Florine and her husband George raised four children in William Street house, and three of them still live on the Island.
“Mom still lives there and she’s self-sufficient,” George Rogers, their son, explained. “She still walks about a mile a day now, she used to walk up to West Chop.”
Florine talked about growing up in West Tisbury in a family of nine, working in the family garden.
“We went to the West Tisbury School and that only went to fifth grade, then we were all bussed to the Vineyard Haven school,” Florine remembered.
She met her future husband, who died last year at 97, when he came to put a new bathroom in her family home.
“We met and talked and that was it,” she says. “His sister went to school with me so I went home for lunch with her and we continued meeting off and on.” George went into the Navy during World War II, and served on the USS Baltimore. They married when he returned to the Island, Florine fresh out of high school.
“We married at the old St. Augustine’s Church,” Florine says, “and we had a nice big breakfast at this small cafe right behind the old Cronig’s grocery store. We had a trip to Niagara Falls for a week.”
George worked as a carpenter for a while and then eventually landed a job on the Island ferries.
“He became quartermaster on the boat and I did chambermaid work,” Florine recalls. “When I had my four children, I stopped working.” She did go back to work eventually, working at the A&P for 30 years before retiring. That’s when she took up walking in earnest.
“I started walking four miles a day, and as I got older my kids kept saying ‘You’ve got to slow down,’” she says. “I walk in the morning about a mile, and in the afternoon if it’s good outside, I’ll walk two miles.”
If it wasn’t snowy outside this week, she says she’d walk down to get her mail and then come home, read a book and watch game shows. “I try to answer the questions.” Florine still cleans her own house, and when spring comes you’ll find her in the flower garden or trimming the hedges.
Florine made some observations on a happy family life when we talked earlier this week.
“To me, I feel Valentine’s Day, or any special day, is just having my kids give me a call,” she says. “Every one of them call me every night and they tell me what they did and I tell them what I did. I always tell them I can’t go to bed without getting a phone call. To me, family is the most important thing. If you can get along with one another, that’s the best thing and from there, everything else falls into place. The more you help each other out and get along together the more you get close. They’re always helping me and I’m always helping them. We’re very close to one another and that’s the most important thing to me.”