During her birthday party at the senior living center where she lives, Alger Martinez took a few minutes to turn attention to her great-grandson. Paul Whittington, 10, swims, dives, studies tae kwon do, loves reading and science, and is almost exactly 100 years younger than his great-grandmother.
Born in 1898, Martinez was celebrating her 109th birthday last Friday afternoon at ManorCare Health Services on Collingwood Road. She has outlived two husbands and both of her children. About a dozen of the center’s clients, most of whom were at least 20 years her junior, surrounded Martinez’ birthday table, but she still appeared to be one of the more lively residents.
She told the friends, family and fellow residents how she always encouraged her great-grandson to read. “I told him, ‘Every time you come see me, you’ve got to bring a book and read me a story,’” she said. “And he did.”
“Back when your grandma was born, that’s about all there was to do,” Center Director Colleen Seaman told Paul, noting that video games and television had not existed in that era.
He protested that at least the radio had been invented and was surprised to learn that this was not so.
Martinez’ granddaughter-in-law, Jette Hansen, noted that, after Martinez’ second husband died in 1989, she had lived independently in New York City until the age of 102. Then, she came to the area to live with Hansen and Steven Whittington, her grandson. Born Alger Crawford in Dadeville, Ala., Martinez had moved to New York in 1926 after marrying her first husband, Major Mitchell, said Hansen.
Martinez recalled recently forgetting her first husband’s name. “I was in tears,” she said. “I said, ‘Well, that was my best husband.’ All I could think of was Ramon Martinez. ” Many years after her first husband died, she had married Martinez, a fellow elder at her Presbyterian church, at the age of 86. They were married for about six years before he died.