They say you’re as old as you feel.

Eva Ledger doesn’t feel 107.

“I never give it a thought,” Eva said, leaning hard into the heating pad wedged between her and her living room rocker. “What’s the difference, yesterday or today?”

Or, in her case, 39,141 yesterdays. And counting.

Eva Ledger, with Rosemarie De Angelis. Photo courtesy Rosemarie De Angelis

Monday evening, South Portland’s City Council will take a short break from the pressing business of the day to honor a life well – and long – lived.

“I’m 65, and I wake up in the morning and feel like I need some WD-40 in my hips,” mused Rosemarie De Angelis, a former South Portland mayor and city councilor. “And I look at Eva and say, ‘What the hell am I complaining about?’ ”


They first met in 2014 when De Angelis, at the time a candidate for the Maine Legislature, knocked on Eva’s door at Landry Village to ask for her vote.

“She was a lot more spry then. Of course, that was a couple of years ago, when she was only 104,” De Angelis quipped. “And she was up and about and wanted to talk about Gov. LePage and how she couldn’t stand him and what were we going to do about this and that.”

De Angelis never made it to Augusta. But after last fall’s election, she thought about Eva and decided to check back in – she figured she’d get one of those recordings indicating that the number (and, alas, Eva) was no longer in service.

Not a chance.

“It took you two years to call me back?” answered Eva, who knew not only that De Angelis had lost the election two years prior, but also that she’d been edged out by a mere 64 votes. “What took you so long?”

De Angelis was, and still is, in awe.


When the U.S. Census Bureau last checked in 2015, just fewer than 77,000 Americans were still alive past their 100th birthday – more than double the number of centenarians in 1980.

For some, such longevity comes with a price – the longer you’re in this world, the harder it can get to comprehend its complexities, navigate its daily challenges, even remember who you are and why you’re here.

Not so for Eva.

She was born in Lyndonville, Vermont, in August of 1910, the third of 12 children. William Howard Taft was president, and the United States had yet to fight in one world war, let alone two.

Her family moved to Portland when she was 8 and, to this day, she can remember walking to Deering High School by way of a big field near her house. It’s now the Westgate Shopping Plaza.

She married Roland Ledger, a soldier, and they lived for a time at Fort McKinley, then an active Army base on Great Diamond Island.


“We were sitting in the movies one day and somebody came and tapped (Roland) on the shoulder,” she recalled. “He left and came right back and said, ‘I have to go, but you can stay here and watch the rest of the movie.’ ”

It was no routine interruption. The Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor and, before Eva knew it, they were off to Florida and a new military assignment.

After the war, Roland and Eva went their separate ways. Eva came home to South Portland, by now a single mother of three, and got to work singlehandedly raising and supporting her family.

She worked for Philco Wholesalers, where she bought her first television, and then for 16 years as a bookkeeper for Coca-Cola. Her daily commute took her past what is now picturesque Mill Creek Park – back then, it was a foul-smelling, open-pit dump.

She also changed sheets at the Merry Manor Inn in South Portland and babysat for a family with seven children in Falmouth Foreside.

She maintained each of the three homes she bought and sold over the decades, all in South Portland. She can still recite the house numbers and streets – including the one on Westbrook Street where she lived until she was 98.


“I did all the mowing of the grass on both sides of that house,” she recalled with pride. “I shoveled all the snow. My doctor kept saying, ‘You have to stop doing that.’ ”

And what did she tell him?

“I said, ‘I can still do it!’ I mean, I wasn’t crazy enough to go out and shovel and shovel until I collapsed. I would go out for a couple of hours and go in the house and sit down and watch TV – when we had real TV, not this junk we have today. Gosh, I can’t even turn that TV on and look at that one face that keeps popping up on there.”

And whose face, dare we ask, might that be?

“Donald Trump!” Eva nearly shouted, slapping her hand on the chair’s arm with each syllable.

Having watched 15 men come and go from the White House, she has a problem with the current occupant?


“Oh God, do I have problems,” she said. “You cannot imagine.”

Speaking of presidents, Eva’s favorite was Bill Clinton, followed closely by Barack Obama because he and Michelle “were the perfect couple” and because “he went in there when the country was in terrible shape after Bush and he straightened things out in a couple of years. And this idiot has been there almost a year, and what has he done? Nothing.”

Funny, but I thought her favorite president might have been someone further back. Maybe, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt?

“I didn’t care too much for him,” Eva replied. “He was too much of a ladies man.”

Wait, wasn’t Bill Clinton the quintessential ladies man?

“Well, Bill was for a while, but he straightened out. I know how men are. If some young girl comes over and starts hugging and kissing you, you’re going to respond in a nice way. So, don’t tell me anything about men. I know the good ones and the bad ones. That’s why I never remarried.”


Her secrets to longevity aren’t all that secret. Or profound, for that matter.

She stays informed by reading every newspaper she can get her hands on. She also devours four books a month that the nice woman from the South Portland Public Library drops off – “The Hollywood Daughter” and “Wild Wicked Scot” are among her two most recent conquests.

Beyond that, Eva said, “Stay away from the dope. And the drinking. And now you’ve got the marijuana coming up here. It makes all the kids stupid.”

And since we’re on the topic of kids, enough with the cellphones already.

“It’s made dummies out of them!” Eva said. “Nobody knows how to spell anything. They don’t know how to talk to a person. They walk down the street, they don’t even look where they’re going. So, what are they going to be like when they get ready to go find a job? They’re not going to have enough intelligence to write a letter.”

Finally, she advised, “Work hard. That’s what I did. I worked hard all my life.”


Getting down to City Hall for Monday’s proclamation honoring South Portland’s oldest resident won’t be easy for Eva. She recently tripped in her living room and cracked three ribs on the coffee table – hence the heating pad.

But she’ll do her best to be there, with an ever-admiring De Angelis by her side.

“It’s not that I think I’m any better than anybody else,” Eva said. “But I think it’s kind of nice to be recognized because a lot of people who I see every day are amazed when I say I’m 107. Most people don’t know that. They’ll say, ‘No, you’re kidding. You can’t be 107.’ Or they say, ‘You’re in your 70s!’ ”

Far be it from Eva to correct them.

“That’s OK,” she says with a twinkle in her eye. “Keep thinking that.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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