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Virginia Muise, 111; Avid Fan of Boston Red Sox, Believed World's 31st Oldest Person

November 09, 2004|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Virginia Muise, believed the oldest resident of New England and the 31st oldest person in the world, who was an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, has died. She was 111.

Muise died Nov. 2 at a nursing home in North Haverhill, N.H., of natural causes associated with aging.

Her regional and worldwide ranking in longevity has been verified by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which tracks "super-centenarians," or those over 110. Muise had lost her hearing and normally used a wheelchair because of arthritis, but could still walk short distances.

Muise always kept a Red Sox cap on the nightstand by her bed and was delighted by the baseball team's recent World Series victory -- its first since 1918. Until her health deteriorated, she had been a regular at Fenway Park.

Muise was born on July 27, 1893, in Halifax, Canada, where her family ran a rooming house.

She was 18 when the Titanic sank in April 1912. Accompanying her dockworker father to the Halifax port, she watched Titanic survivors disembark from rescue ships and saw hundreds of victims' coffins stacked along the wharf like cordwood.

Recalling another historic disaster, she once said bluntly: "The whole city blew out its windows." Muise was referring to the 1917 explosion of an ammunition ship in Halifax Harbor that killed 2,000 people and leveled two square kilometers of the city -- considered the largest man-made explosion in history prior to the detonation of the atomic bomb.

The windows of Muise's own house were shattered, and her husband had to kick down a door so they could flee.

Her husband, Charles, was a blacksmith who died at 94 in 1977. Although the two were not relatives, each had the common French-Canadian surname Muise.

The family moved to Boston in 1923, and Virginia immediately became interested in the Red Sox, who were still basking in their glory as the 1918 World Series champions. Lured partially by discount tickets for women that were prevalent in that era, she became a faithful baseball fan who attended nearly every game.

A housekeeper and cook in Canada, Muise in 1923 became manager of the cafeteria at the former Boston Lying-In Hospital, a position she held until her retirement in 1958.

Her son, Gordon Muise, 81, said his mother was far more proud of her pioneering professional achievement than of being the oldest person in New England. But that didn't keep anyone else from appreciating her longevity.

In July 2003, New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson proclaimed her 110th birthday "Virginia Muise Day" and issued a proclamation reading:

"Whereas, Virginia was alive for the discovery and invention of such items as: aspirin (1899), the airplane (1903), radio broadcast (1906), air conditioning (1911), and the discovery of the atom (1911) I honor Virginia for her life and for all the lives she has touched."

Besides her son Gordon, Muise is survived by another son, John; daughters Margaret Doucet and Edith Murphy; 18 grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.

Following her funeral Mass on Saturday, her son, Gordon, poured champagne at a luncheon. "It isn't often," he said, "you have a mother who lives to 111."

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