Charlestown’s Oldest Resident Keeps Young with Art and Attitude

Irene Morey has lived 103 years and seen just about everything in modern history – from two World Wars to the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy – but her focus in all those long years, and her secret to keeping young, is choosing one’s attitude.

Irene Morey of the Navy Yard with her best friend, Architect Peter Wells. Morey recently celebrated her 103rd birthday and says if one wants to be happy, then just make a decision to be happy.

“Everything should be in moderation,” she said last week. “If you want to be happy, be happy. If you want to be a grouch, get off my couch.”

Another secret to being young ,she shared slyly, is that she’s really only 26.

“I was born on leap year, so that makes me only about 26 even though people say I’m 103,” she laughed.

It’s with that spirit that the Navy Yard resident approaches each and every day.

For years she has been an artist, sketching daily with charcoal and exhibiting with the StoveFactory Gallery in Charlestown.

“I do charcoal drawings every single day, and I do Tai Chi, Sudoku and Crossword puzzles,” she shared. “I don’t even see my sketches. I just close my eyes, meditate and sketch. They come out like Picasso’s sort of. I do that every day. I’ve sold some of them. I don’t even know what’s on the paper when I’m drawing them. It’s kind of a meditation thing.”

She stressed that Sudoku and the crossword puzzles are a major key to keeping her mind sharp. She said without doing those things daily, she fears she would begin to lose her mental sharpness.

Morey was featured on the “Chronicle” television show last month and has gotten quite a bit of publicity from that. But many in Charlestown have already been familiar with her and, especially, her art. Even though she moved here 16 years ago, her husband, the late Robert Morey, was born and raised in Charlestown. He became a famous artist from the Town, painting portraits of John F. Kennedy and also designing official seals for the government.

“I was at the Kennedy inauguration and my husband worked for him,” she said. “He got to know him in Charlestown when he was running for Congress. Then he supported him for Senate and for president.”

Like many who have surpassed the 100-year milestone, Morey said the biggest change she has seen in her life is the movement towards technology – particularly smart phones.

While she doesn’t shun technology, she said, she has some concerns about social media.

“I’m not too savvy when it comes to technology, but I have some apps on my phone that I like,” she said. “I don’t like Facebook. I like to have real friends. I love people and I love to see my friends and talk to them face to face. I don’t need to see what they post on Facebook. I think we need to start talking to people again.”

In addition to her life of moderation, one cannot overlook the genetics in her family. She said she had a grandmother who was 105 and he sister is 101.

“You know, God is good, and I’ve had a great life.”

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