Jeanne B. Frymire of Safety Harbor celebrated her 100th birthday Jan. 5 with fellow residents of Amber Glades mobile home park and again on Jan. 7 with members of the Welcome Newcomers Club of Pinellas County.
Christened Regina Bowser, but always known as Jeanne, she was born Jan. 6, 1914, in Atlantic City, N.J., to Edward Pierce Bowser and Rena Marie Norcross Bowser. She was the eldest of the couple's four children and their only daughter.
Frymire's parents moved the family to Margate City, N.J., in the fall of 1919. Because she could read, the 5-year-old was immediately placed in the third grade.
Frymire's maternal grandfather served as one of the first mayors of Margate City and she recalled him owning several taverns there, "including one at the 'elephant.' "
She's referring to Lucy the Elephant, the oldest remaining example of zoomorphic architecture left in the United States. The six-story wood and tin structure, designed by James Lafferty and built in 1881, has been home to a wide variety of businesses over the years. Rescued from demolition in 1960, it has since been designated a National Historic Landmark and is toured by thousands each year.
In 1921 Frymire's father, an Atlantic City dairy employee, was killed in a traffic accident after less than nine years of marriage, leaving behind a pregnant wife and three small children. When her youngest was old enough to attend school, Frymire's mother began working as a secretary for the Margate City Board of Education, a position she held for 43 years.
At Holy Spirit High School in Atlantic City, Frymire served as salutatorian of her 1930 graduating class. Although it took her a year to land a steady job in office work, she was satisfied with the $15-a-week starting pay.
Not all were as fortunate.
"During the Depression every bank in Atlantic City closed and many never reopened," said Frymire. "My grandfather, a prosperous man, was left destitute."
On April 4, 1942, she married William Henry Frymire, a Merchant Marine veteran who worked for the Atlantic County Sheriff's Office.
An office worker, Frymire was employed over the years in the insurance, hospitality, advertising and educational fields.
In 1966 she enrolled part-time at a newly established two-year college in Atlantic County, N.J., graduating with an associate's degree in business administration. A transfer to Richard Stockton College of New Jersey resulted in a 1975 bachelor's degree in language and literature. She continued to take classes in literature while working at Atlantic Community College, where she advanced to the position of administrative assistant to the college president.
Frymire served as a county committeewoman for the Republican Party for 35 years.
After her retirement in 1983, she and her husband moved to Florida. He died in 1996.
Frymire retains a membership to the Yacht Club of Pleasantville, N.J., where her husband was commodore in 1966. Since moving to Amber Glades, Frymire has edited the park's monthly newsletter and been social committee secretary for many years. As a member of Welcome Newcomer of Pinellas, she edits its newsletter and serves as assistant to the editor.
The centenarian feels fortunate to have so many good friends and she values her relationship with them. She loves her pet cat, enjoys cooking for others and prefers classic literature over modern. She keeps up on current events by reading the daily newspaper and likes to solve the Cryptoquote.
Her relatives include two nieces, Geri Bramble of Leesburg and Helen Kehoe of Asheville, N.C., and many great- and grand- nieces and nephews.
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