Violet McCafferty Custer was born Sept. 14, 1904, the second of 11 children born to Francis and Nellie Dunlevy McCafferty. Born on a farm on Beaver Island, Lake Michigan, she lived in both an era and an area that was not blessed with electricity. Her family used kerosene lanterns, and the island boasted only two phones with which to keep in touch with mainland Michigan.
Violet's grandparents, Francis and Bridget Dunlevy, had settled on Beaver Island because it reminded them of their home in Ireland.
Violet's formal education began in a one-room school. She was taught by the nuns there until her graduation eight years later. She graduated in a class of four. Then it was off to the mainland to pursue her education. At age 16, she received her teaching certificate from the Normal School in Charlevoix, Mich. She then returned to a one-room school where she taught first- through eighth-graders.
After a stint of teaching, Violet moved to Chicago and worked as a secretary for an international bakery. She traveled to Michigan occasionally, often in a horse-drawn, ice-crossing "jumper carrier," a vehicle used primarily for mail delivery. Her trip home was delayed once because the horse got caught in the ice and broke its leg; the rest of her trip was on foot until a replacement "jumper" arrived _ all this in the middle of a blizzard.
She met James Robert Custer, who was vacationing on Beaver Island, during a later trip to the island in the summer. They were married in 1931 and then lived in Royal Oak, Mich. James Custer worked for what is now known as General Motors. The couple then moved to Philadelphia, where James was the president of an aeronautic automotive magazine.
The Custers had a son, James, when they moved to St. Petersburg in 1957. They bought the Topaz apartments on Seventh Street N. Together, they owned and managed the apartments until James' death in 1974. Violet continued as landlady and manager until 2000.
Their son, James, died in 2002.
Violet was long active in the Republican Party, first in Upper Darby, Pa., and then in St. Petersburg. In fact, she still calls the City Council to give her opinion from time to time.
At least 20 out-of-town guests, including her younger brother Peter, age 80, helped Violet celebrate her 100th birthday on Sept. 11. She has two granddaughters: Dawn Wieteska of Dunedin and Cindy Vallely of Jacksonville. Violet also has two great-grandchildren.
We think that living 100 years is worth our taking notice. If you or a family member is about to celebrate a 100th birthday or more, please let us know. Include the following information: the person's full name, date of birth, place of birth, parents' names (including mother's maiden name) if known, name of spouse (if applicable), marriage date, names of children and number of grandchildren (if applicable), length of time the person has lived in this area and a phone number in case we have questions. Also, please include a photo that doesn't need to be returned. We'll publish the information as close to the birthday as possible. Send the information to 100-year Birthdays, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731-1121 or fax to (727) 893-8675.