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She's an ardent Rays fan at nearly 105

Mere days from celebrating her 105th birthday, Eva Tancrell Meunier can probably count herself among the oldest of Rays' fans. • Since she can't hear very well these days, she wears amplified earphones while catching the games on television. It has also become harder to stay up until the final out, so she has to wait until the next morning to learn how the home team has done. • "It's always a pleasure when we can beat the Yankees or the Red Sox,'' said Mrs. Meunier, who was born in Massachusetts on Aug. 19, 1905, and concedes that her loyalties should probably lie with the New England team.

Tuesday she chatted about her life in the St. Petersburg apartment where she lives with her 83-year-old daughter, Jocelyn Meunier.

"Excuse me if I don't stand,'' she said graciously as she was introduced. Yes, she agreed, it is amazing to have lived as long as she has. "I can't believe it either," she said, adding that everyone wants to know the secret of her longevity.

"I don't have a secret. I just go from day to day.''

Some credit might go to her large family. "I've got a ton of nieces and nephews and all of them have been very good to me,'' she said.

Most have remained in New England, where the family of French heritage settled after moving from Canada. Two nieces live in Florida and take turns delivering Sunday dinner — with ample leftovers for weekday meals.

"I could never repay her for all that she has done for me over the years,'' said Suzanne Gray, 74, who lives in Largo.

Gray, whose mother died when she was 6, said Mrs. Meunier — her aunt by marriage — became a second mother. When her father also died, she moved to St. Petersburg to live with her aunt and her family.

"I lived with them until I married,'' said Gray, a dental hygienist and travel consultant.

Andree Giguere, the daughter of Mrs. Meunier's only sister, who died in her 40s, is the other Sunday visitor. She and Gray started the custom of delivering Sunday meals after Mrs. Meunier was hospitalized a couple of years ago.

Giguere, 76, who makes the one-hour drive from Lakeland, spoke of the "gorgeous, gorgeous voice'' her aunt once had. She gave voice lessons, said Giguere, admitting to being one of her aunt's less promising students.

For a recital, Giguere recalled, "I had to say my song … with somebody playing the piano in the background.''

Her aunt recalled another story.

"According to the family history,'' Mrs. Meunier said, "I started by singing and accompanying myself on the window (sills)'' as if playing an imaginary piano.

Later, she said, "I sang in the Boston symphony and the Providence symphony and a lot of concerts in between.''

She also performed in two amateur productions of the operas Martha and Mignon and was hired to sing the leading role in the professional production of Manon in Montreal. "They were looking for a singer who could sing in French,'' she said. "That was the top for me.''

She married Armand Meunier in 1926. What won her over? "He was very kind, very gentle and very concerned,'' she said.

"He had a good sense of humor,'' added Jocelyn, their only child.

"They complemented one another. He was very gregarious and very outgoing. She was more shy,'' Gray remembered.

In 1952, the family moved to St. Petersburg from Woonsocket, R.I., where Armand had owned a wholesale grocery business.

"We came down for my husband's health,'' Mrs. Meunier said.

He died in 1961, living almost 10 years after the move. "So it was worth it," she said.

She shrugged when asked what has impressed her most over the years. "It's been a gradual change,'' she said. "We're always in wars, it seems. The news isn't always good, but we live through it and we're living through this one. You have to have the faith that things are going to get better."

She values her Catholic faith. She and her husband were charter members of the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, founded in 1953, a year after they moved to St. Petersburg. Back then, said Mrs. Meunier: "It was a nice little city, quiet and easygoing. We loved it. We still like St. Pete.''

She doesn't get out much anymore. She's under hospice care. Two weeks ago, she had a mild heart attack. "This is my home,'' she said last week, patting her chair. "The chair and my bed, that's about my journeys,'' she said.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or 892-2283.

She's an ardent Rays fan at nearly 105 08/07/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 6, 2010 4:01pm]
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