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Ridgefield Octogenarian Cites Laughter, Love As Key To Longevity

Ann O'Brien with husband, Bill, at the Great Wall of China in April, 2015.
Ann O'Brien with husband, Bill, at the Great Wall of China in April, 2015. Photo Credit: Submitted

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- Ask 80-year-old Ann O'Brien the secret to longevity and she'll tell you it's staying active. Laughter and good food also helps.

The Ridgefield resident who grew up in Harrison, N.Y., as the youngest of nine, has been on the go ever since first getting married at age 22. She worked at Xerox, General Foods and a Long Island ad agency, among other companies, where she mostly did administrative work, including, back in the day, entering stock prices by hand.

After her first husband died, O' Brien, whose maiden name is Delzio,  moved to Stamford (from Long Island), and worked at AMAX, a minerals and energy company in Greenwich for 15 years, before deciding to strike out on her own, starting her own antique greeting company called Grannie Annie Greetings, which she ran for five years.

"It was hard to go up against the biggies like Hallmark and American Greetings," she said, "Still, I have no regrets. I enjoyed every moment of it."

Feeling too young to retire, she did temp work for another seven years. That allowed her a lot of freedom and flexibility to travel with her second husband, Bill. Together, they have gone to 34 countries, including, most recently, China, where they spent three weeks in April 2015.

The two have also been on an African safari, traveled to Egypt, Israel, New Zealand, Russia, Iceland and all of Europe, not to mention Canada and Hawaii. They also love camping and have a 24- foot camper trailer that they use to criss-cross the country. In the past, they've also flown to Alaska and California, then rented a motor home and driven East.

The breast cancer survivor, who goes to the gym three times a week, is most often found playing Bridge with friends, spending an overnight at Foxwoods Casino, or on her email staying in touch with friends and family.

Cooking also keeps her busy. "We had a root cellar and my mom always made things from scratch," said O'Brien. "To me, food is nurturing and the source of so many good things."

In fact, she said, she never was aware while growing up, that her parents didn't have the kind of money many of her Westchester classmates did. "We just had so much love and laughter," she said. "It taught me a big lesson that money is not critical to happiness." 

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