Last summer — then at the tender age of 99 years old — Ellen Walbridge took it upon herself to plant, water, and tend the flowers in the stand up raised bed garden gracing the Dixon House porch, as well as the hanging baskets greeting visitors. (Photo courtesy Shelley LaRoque)

On an unseasonably chilly May morning 100-year-old Ellen Walbridge had just returned to The Dixon House, a historic assisted living residence in Easton from her daily walk with her son.
She recently suffered a broken hip and therefore wasn’t quite up to as long a walk as usual, she confided, adding that “I sometimes don’t feel up to a lot of walking, but I do like to go when I can.”
Walking is just one of several activities this centenarian continues to enjoy and be involved in as much as possible.
She participates in daily exercise classes, lends a hand at baking in the Dixon House kitchen (she has always enjoyed baking more than cooking, she related, with lemon meringue pie a favorite).
And just the day before, she, along with two other Dixon House residents, had been one of the guests of honor at a community luncheon honoring those 100 years old and over.
Last summer — at the tender age of 99 — Walbridge took it upon herself to plant, water, and tend the flowers in the stand up raised bed garden gracing the Dixon House porch, as well as the hanging baskets greeting visitors.
Asked about her love of gardening, Walbridge fondly attributed it in part to her mother, who grew roses, which remain among her favorite flowers.
While raising her own family Walbridge recalled having a large vegetable garden, “worked up” for her by a family member, and planted with tomatoes and beans, which were then canned.
“That’s how we lived at that time,” she recalled.
Her green thumb was acquired through experience, and what she knows about growing things she’s learned by just “opening a book” as needed, or simply by doing, she said.
Always a hard worker, Walbridge had helped keep house and cook as a youngster growing up in West Virginia.
At age 15 she was encouraged by her brother to join him where he was working on the Eastern Shore at Fike’s Orchard in Skipton, to take over the household duties for Mrs. Fike, who was having surgery.
She was asked to stay on and was encouraged to complete her schooling, graduating from high school.
She met her future husband, Alvin Walbridge, at a church social, and married him several years later, managing things at home as he grew the family construction business, Walbridge Bros.
Along the way, she raised five children-one son and four daughters and is now the matriarch of 10 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
Family and church, The Church of the Brethren, have been the central pillars of her long and busy life, along with an indomitable spirit and positive outlook.
At the Dixon House since 2017 after living on her own, she credits the residence with helping her stay as active and involved as she enjoys being.
While she’d been sidelined at the start of this growing season with her hip injury, she was not out, lovingly cultivating the plants which filled each spare windowsill in her room.
Three were African Violets which she’d brought with her from home to the Dixon House two years before.
There was also an elegant orchid, a gift from a well wisher at her church, in a vase inscribed with the word “Faith.”
Another gift, a large begonia plant, she’d already sent down to be planted among this year’s raised bed flowers.
Her mobility limited this Spring, Walbridge nevertheless was eager to head down to the porch to check on the garden’s progress and led the way.
She was greeted by Pamela Cannon, a friend of Dixon House Activities Director Shelly LaRoque, who stops by when she can to lend a hand, who had already planted a nearly full bed of orange impatiens.
But she had waited to install the begonia Walbridge had sent on ahead, hoping to allow her to do the honors.
She gracefully deferred but was asked for and gladly gave advice on where it should be placed, which Cannon was only too happy to follow.
As she did so, Walbridge became animated, totally engaged with the process and eager to follow the garden’s day by day progress.
“Last year, she really took care of everything out here, the raised bed, the hanging baskets, and some others” Cannon recalled with admiration.
Walbridge smiled and chimed in with her own recollections—that the impatiens really spread out over the summer, eventually dwarfing the others; this time the begonia in the middle might work out nicely, allowing the others to grow around it.
In one of the interviews Walbridge gave when she turned 100, she said that longevity may be a family trait; her brother lived to be 96.
But her habit of finding and cultivating beauty in everyday life may also be a factor.
Keeping this in mind, Ellen Walbridge is beginning her next century as young in spirit as ever.