HARVARD — With the school cafeteria here packed Saturday evening with several decades of Harvard Public School graduates for the alumni banquet, Mary Keasling was a popular lady.
Mary, who turns 103 on Friday, was celebrating her 85th high school reunion. A constant stream of fellow Cardinals came up to engage her in conversation before the banquet began.
Her son, Gene, who lives in Harvard and graduated from Harvard High School in 1965, pushed her in her wheelchair from the nearby Harvard Rest Haven to the school for the alumni banquet.
“That’s quite an accomplishment,” he said of her anniversary. “Not too many even get close to that.”
Mary has lived in Harvard her entire life.
There were 52 members in Harvard’s Class of 1934, which Mary said was the largest in school history.
“We had lots of fun because we all got together and made our own fun,” she said.
In addition to herself, she said Jack Paulus of Hastings from her class also is still living.
Mary was one of four children and had five children herself.
Besides Gene, Mary’s son, Bruce, also was in attendance at the banquet — celebrating his 50th reunion.
Mary is not without familial longevity. Gene said his mother had a sister live to 98 and her father lived to 86.
Her secret is simple.
“I tell you, just keep breathing,” she said. “That’s it. That’s what I keep telling everybody.”
As so many well wishers came up to greet Mary, Shelley Stone, vice president of the Harvard Alumni Association, expressed awe.
“She looks amazing,” Stone said in an interview before the banquet began. “I haven’t seen her for quite some time, so seeing her here tonight it’s just amazing how good she looks.”
Stone, who has taught kindergarten at Harvard for 30 years, graduated from Harvard High School in 1983.
“This is my 36th (reunion),” she said. “I’m hoping I can still be just like her when I’m that age.”
The alumni banquet Saturday was the 106th for Harvard.
Seeing so many Harvard alumni in one room is special for someone like Stone who grew up in Harvard and now is teaching future Harvard High School graduates.
“This has always been something that’s been very important to me,” she said. “So seeing this many people here, and coming to the banquet year after year, we just hope it will continue.”