2018-05-10 / News

Saginaw women reach century mark

By Cameron Kerkau


Mary Kuster (left) sits next to Virginia Bourcier (right) shortly after having their hair done. Mary Kuster (left) sits next to Virginia Bourcier (right) shortly after having their hair done. One hundred years ago, the World War I ended, Harry Houdini made an elephant disappear in New York, and Saginaw Township women Virginia Bourcier and Mary Kuster were born.

The women have been tablemates at Edgewood Assisted Living Center, 4850 Gratiot Road, for seven years.

Bourcier and Kuster celebrated their 100th birthdays on April 22 and March 1, respectively, each surrounded by friends and family. Both women are in excellent health and neither have smoked. Kuster attributes her health and longevity to her daily Manhattan’s, though Bourcier prefers whiskey and water.

Bourcier was born in Somerset, Ind., where she raised chickens on her parents’ farm with her sisters, Dorothy and Louise. When she was 12, her father got a job in Michigan and moved the family to Saginaw, where Bourcier has lived ever since. She remembers visiting Indiana every three weeks for years after the move.

Bourcier remembers seeing superhighways at the New York World’s Fair in 1940. She spent her youth dancing and traveling to places such as Hawaii and the Caribbean.

“I loved to dance, but I don’t know how good I was at it,” said Bourcier.

In 1941, she married Joseph Bourcier, who lost his hearing as an artillery sergeant in World War II. She lived with her mother, Dora, during the war, and remembers dreading to look at the manifests. She’d receive nylons and cigarettes in rations, which she’d give to her friends who smoked. Bourcier said she might’ve smoked if it wasn’t for her mother discouraging it.

Bourcier kept her home in excellent condition until she sold it when she was 93 years old.

“When I sold my house, that man that bought it could not believe I took care of it alone,” said Bourcier.

Kuster was born in Jackson, to parents who only spoke German. She learned how to speak English from a family friend named Geraldine. She was the oldest of her two sisters, Alice and Betty. She went to Catholic school and worked in a restaurant, where she met the owner’s nephew, Francis, whom she married in 1939.

Kuster moved to Saginaw with Francis and started a cleaning business with a friend. She retired in 1979 and moved into Lawndale Estates, 4615 Lawndale Road. Kuster spent 20 years of her retirement with Francis big game hunting in Wyoming. The two also did a lot of fishing. After 72 years of marriage, Francis passed away in 2012.

Kuster likes to spend her evenings at Edgewood listening to music in the living room.

Kuster and Bourcier’s table mate, Helen Ciaramitaro, was also born 100 years ago on April 10, 1918. Ciaramitaro passed away on March 15 of this year.

“I really enjoyed your mother at my table,” Bourcier told Nancy Kaufman, Ciaramitaro’s daughter and life enrichment coordinator at Edgewood.

Ciaramitaro also did not smoke. She was a major sports fan and played basketball, volleyball and softball in her youth. Both Bourcier and Ciaramitaro graduated from Arthur Hill High School in 1935 after skipping a grade.

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