AILSA CHANG, HOST:
And now for a story about three Dots - no, not the three dots that make up an ellipsis or three locations on a map. This is about three women - three friends all born in 1919 and living in the same hometown. They celebrated their 100th birthdays this year and more than eight decades of friendship. From Maine Public Radio, Susan Sharon has more.
SUSAN SHARON, BYLINE: Back in 1919, Dorothy was the third-most popular girl's name, and the chance of living to age 100 was 1.9%. So imagine the odds that former classmates and longtime friends Dot Buchanan, Dot Murray and Dot Kern would still be living in Auburn, Maine, and 10 decades later, meeting for tea.
DOT KERN: (Singing) Looks like we made it.
DOT BUCHANAN: We have so far.
DOT MURRAY: Don't you think as though - that we look as though we're going to make it?
SHARON: Sitting on the sofa in Dot Buchanan's living room, the three great-grandmothers squeeze hands. Their hair is thinner, and it's more difficult for them to get around. But they say they find comfort in their families, their faith and in their unusual connection that brings them together to reminisce a couple of times a year.
MURRAY: We all went through the Depression. No one had any more than the other.
SHARON: Dot Murray remembers eating Depression-era pickle sandwiches. That's sweet pickles with mayonnaise on bread, which she says she enjoyed in those austere times.
MURRAY: We couldn't spend much. That's all.
SHARON: And Dot Buchanan recalls her father being incredibly anxious, as many parents were, that she and her sisters would get polio. So every summer, he took them to the Maine coast under the mistaken belief that he could protect them.
BUCHANAN: Because he always heard if you went to the salt water, you didn't get polio.
SHARON: Another big fear was World War II. Both Dot Buchanan and Dot Kern's husbands served in the armed forces. Kern and her husband had met at the Lewiston Sun Journal, the local newspaper. They wrote letters to each other every day for four years. After the war ended, Kern's husband called to say he was finally coming home and she should wait for him that night at the bottom of their hill. When the time came to meet, Kern says she got lost in her excitement.
KERN: And I walked right by him. And he hollered and said - Dot? I must have been in seventh heaven. And I thought - how could I have missed him?
SHARON: When they finally connected, Kern says it was a beautiful moment. The three Dots also have memories of each other. Buchanan recalls Murray's striking presence as a drum majorette in the high school marching band.
BUCHANAN: She had big boobs. And she was...
BUCHANAN: You did. And you'd go back and forth and back and forth. And you were really very good.
SHARON: They still enjoy a good laugh. And when they get together, they always ask the same question.
BUCHANAN: How are you feeling?
SHARON: They all say they're feeling fine, especially Dot Murray.
MURRAY: I don't have an ache or a pain. I drive. I do everything as I always have.
BUCHANAN: Why does the police let you drive at 100?
MURRAY: Because I haven't had any accidents.
BUCHANAN: Well, yeah. But you're due.
MURRAY: They can't stop me. I'm a - I'm still an excellent driver.
BUCHANAN: I didn't say you weren't.
SHARON: Giving up driving has been difficult, the other two Dots admit, and they did so reluctantly. No one wants to lose their independence or be a burden to their families. Reaching the age of 100, they say, means giving up a lot. They've outlasted husbands, siblings and even several children, which is why, in 2020, they don't want a single thing to change.
For NPR News, I'm Susan Sharon.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND")
ANDREW GOLD: (Singing) Thank you for being a friend.
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