BROOKSVILLE — At Day Star Life Center, a nonprofit assistance agency that serves those of modest means, Anita LeVasseur is a star.
The 30-year resident of Cloverleaf Farms, who turns 93 on Friday, has been volunteering at the center for the past 25 years.
If anyone else has served as long, Del Eikers, center director from 1995 to 2006, said he's not aware of it. "She beats us for longevity," said Eikers, himself 77.
The white-coiffed LeVasseur, all 4-foot-9 of her, wearing an apron embroidered with her name, can be found every Friday and Saturday in the center's specialty shop, one of five stops in what the center dubs a yard sale. Other venues include furniture, clothing, electronics and housewares.
But LeVasseur's choice is specialties, where she arranges displays of seasonal whatnots and decor for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day and Easter. Right now, she's surrounded by plush bunnies and other springtime babies, Easter baskets, ceramic tabletop icons of the season and more.
The shop also offers good dishes and glassware, and jewelry. "That's why they call it specialty," she explained.
On a recent morning, LeVasseur sidled up to a customer who admitted her funds were limited. The woman peered into the jewelry case, and LeVasseur knew just where to direct her attention: a basket of assorted pins, pendants and earrings, 25 cents each.
"Ooo," enthused the customer, breaking into a smile. She pondered a gold-colored pendant.
"We have some chains," LeVasseur offered. She drew them from a glass case. LeVasseur's shop partner, Helen Cronenwett, stepped in to help untangle them. Cronenwett, the center's other 93-year-old, is a snowbird neighbor at Cloverleaf. She volunteers the several months a year she's in residence.
But LeVasseur not only staffs the shop two days a week, she puts in another day sorting goods in the clothing shop. "Straightening up," she says.
"She's been a real loyal volunteer," says current director David Goodwin. "Anita is a very sweet lady. She is a little tired now. We give her latitude." That means having pared her days of volunteering from four to three.
The center's volunteers range down to age 75, Goodwin noted. "Seniors," he said. "They came through all the rough times, the Depression, World War II."
LeVasseur's times were even rougher than many. She was the baby born in 1915 into a family of 13 children in Rochester, N.H. Her mother died when she was 2. Her father fielded offers to adopt the toddler, but declined. He placed her in an orphanage, where she stayed until age 16, when an older sister took her into her home.
Through the years, she worked in a hospital laundry, did odd jobs of family caretaking, washed dishes for "people who had money" when they had big parties, worked in a grocery store. She married at age 30, a union that lasted 51 years.
LeVasseur personifies her fellow volunteers, Goodwin said. "Dedicated, dependable, terrific work ethic."
The nonagenarian gave her own why. "Rather than sit in the house and doing nothing, I volunteer over there. I enjoy it very much, meeting the people. It helps the poor. That's what it is."
In her soft leather white shoes, LeVasseur sprightly walks the grounds of the center when called upon for some chore beyond her shop. She has no intention of slowing down.
LeVasseur confides with a grin and low voice that something big is coming up. She has been invited to reign as grand marshal in Monday's Cloverleaf Farms St. Patrick's Day parade. Of course, she accepted.
Beth Gray can be reached at email@example.com.