"I just go with the flow," said Pauline Magrino, 88, of Tupper Lake.
That may just be her secret to longevity, she feels. Or at least one of her secrets. Another may be that she never smoked or drank. The fact that she attends Mass every morning with all of her good friends couldn't have hurt either. She walks when the weather is nice or otherwise picks up her good friend Maggie Salamy.
In August, Pauline retired from Kinney Drugs in Tupper Lake, where she worked for the past 19 years, and that was just her latest career.
(Photo — Newton Greiner)
Born in Churubusco to Leopold and Blanche Gervais, Pauline was the second of five children, including two brothers and two sisters, born on the farm her parents worked when she was a baby. She recalls her mother going out every morning to help her father milk the cows.
When she was very young, the family moved to Malone, where she started kindergarten at Notre Dame Elementary School. She recalls walking the few blocks to the school every day.
Later she attended Franklin Academy and graduated from high school there in 1944. During those years, they lived out by the Franklin County Fairgrounds, and they still walked to school every day, although the walk was much longer.
That fall, she applied to and was accepted at the Nurses Cadet Corps of Plattsburgh State Teachers College, and would go on to graduate from nursing school in March 1947.
When she first got out of college, she was immediately hired by Alice Hyde Hospital in Malone, where she worked until the following January when she transferred to the Sunmount Veterans Administration Hospital in Tupper Lake along with her two good friends, Pauline Villeneuve and Betty Facteau.
That same year, in October, she was married to Robert Magrino and started a family, which eventually included four children. Robert also worked at Sunmount, where he was in charge of the warehouse, both during the VA years and later for the state of New York. Robert died 23 years ago.
Daughter Susan married Bob Virostek. Pauline's son Anthony Scott was hurt in a ski jumping accident in Vail, Colo. a number of years ago and now lives with his sister Sue in Tupper Lake. Her son Robert Jr. lives in Frisco, Colo., , and her daughter Jana has been happily married for seven years to John Ormsby and lives in Peru, N.Y.
In all, she counts six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
She worked as a nurse at the Sunmount VA Hospital in Tupper Lake until it closed in the mid-1960s and became a New York State Hospital in the 1960s, and she stayed on as a nurse for the state. She retired from the state in April 1984.
That was when she decided she needed "something to do" and began babysitting her granddaughter until she was enrolled in kindergarten.
She heard they were hiring at Kinney Drugs, so after more than 40 years in the workforce as a nurse, she decided to use her people skills and her experience once again in a new career as a cashier at the local pharmacy. Little did she know at that time that her new career would take her all the way to August 2013, when she finally decided to retire after 19 years with Kinney Drugs.
For 17 of those 19 years she was a hospice volunteer.
"We were real busy in those days," she recalled.
Nowadays, to fill her time she volunteers at Family Champions, the local help closet, where she works two to three days per week for two or three hours at a time.
"That still leaves time to go to Mass every morning, and then later I get together with all my friends for breakfast at McDonald's," she said. Sometimes there are as many as 16 of them at breakfast.
Pauline now rents a comfortable little apartment on Boyer Avenue, a nice, clean, warm place where she doesn't have to worry about upkeep of a house.
"It's easy to take care of, and I don't have to worry about a thing," she said.
She said she does sometimes miss her old home on Marion Avenue, where she lived for many years.
She also said she misses working at Kinney Drugs, where she had a lot of contact with people every day and was known as a pleasant, positive person who was always helpful.
"I miss the contact with the people. But I was there long enough," she laughs.
She said she fit right in there. She knew how to run the register, although she has never been one to know much about computers.
"Things have changed now," she said.
She recalls the days when she first began working at the VA hospital at Sunmount.
"That was very different than working at Alice Hyde," she said.
Back then, she said, it was mostly a tuberculosis hospital.
"I saw a lot back then," she said. "They used to remove lungs - how things have changed. Much of what they did is different now."
She recalls when Gov. Nelson Rockefeller came to visit the VA hospital one time.
Later she was the head nurse on the fourth floor, where she got to work with all of the babies. She said she loved that.
"All the staff were good people to work with," she said.
Over the years she was an avid knitter, but recently she gave away all her knitting needles and yarn to her daughter.
Nowadays she is an avid reader. She loves to read stories about dogs and animals and is currently in the middle of reading Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods." Recently she read "Twelve Years a Slave," which won big at the Academy Awards as a movie, and she enjoyed that book.
"The only thing is, I start reading in the afternoon, and I fall asleep," she laughed, "but it's a good way to relax!
"I'm just glad I've made it this far without any health problems. Nowadays they talk about food, and 'Don't eat this' or 'Don't eat that,' but in our day, we didn't worry about counting calories or any of that. We ate what was put in front of us.
"I guess my attitudes are just different than a lot of people. It's the simple things in life that satisfy me. Except for the occasional aches and pains, I'm pretty healthy and life is good. I hate going to the doctor's, but I do go to see Dr. Cook every year."
Her parents were French-Canadian and originally came from St. Antoinne -Abb'e, Quebec. When Pauline first went to school, she could barely understand English, but she speaks perfect English now.
"I still understand French, but it takes a while to get the words across," she smiled.
She drives her own car and said she gets a new Subaru every two years.
About once a month, she said, she drives over to the Plattsburgh area to see her daughter, Jana.
In December, Pauline had the honor of walking her granddaughter down the aisle at her wedding at a church in Plattsburgh. During the interview she took out a photo of herself with the bride proceeding down the aisle, and she just beamed.
What does she look forward to now?
"I've got another great-grandson due in May and that should be fun!" she said.
It's obvious she takes a lot of pride in her family. She speaks of her grandson, Mark Raymond, who is the head football coach at St. Lawrence University, and his wife, who is the head soccer coach at Clarkson University, and their two little daughters, ages 2 and 5, and of her two great-grandsons who are currently attending St. Lawrence University.
"It's amazing how time flies and how they have grown," she said.