ROCKLAND, Maine — UPDATE: The Lobster Lady just got her fishing license renewed and is looking forward to lobstering this summer with her son Max who is 79. Virginia will be 102 in June and Max just installed a new motor in their boat. The pair is ready for a new season on the water.
It’s been said that time is what we want most but what we use worst. Virginia Oliver has been blessed with a lot of time, 101 years to be exact, but it's what she's chosen to do with it that makes her life remarkable.
Virginia, or Ginny as her friends call her, was born on Claredon Street in Rockland at her parent's home in June of 1920. The centenarian still lives on the same street but in a different house, one where she raised her four children.
Her mind is sharp. Her wit is, too.
Virginia used to live alone but nowadays her 78-year-old son Max spends the nights at her house. It makes it easy for the two to wake early ...
"I usually get up quarter of five…"
... pile into the old Ford and drive the winding road to Owls Head where her late husband's boat, appropriately named 'Virginia' is docked.
At 101, Virginia Oliver lobsters her 200 pots in the waters off of Rockland, usually three days a week.
Her sea legs aren't as steady as they used to be, but she might be more at ease on a rocking boat than possibly anywhere else.
Max hauls the pots while Virginia bands the lobsters. She is right-handed but has to use her left because she broke her wrist a few years ago. When she's not busy with lobsters, she fills bait bags with poggies; mother and son work in quiet harmony.
When the work is done, Virginia sets herself on the side of the boat and waits for Max to catch up. She doesn't hold on; she just rests her sloped back on the thin board that makes up the bulkhead, inches from the sea, the morning sun in her eyes, and is at ease.
"They call me the Lobster Lady."
Virginia grew up between the mainland, Rockland, and Andrews Islands, where her family has a home and where her father lobstered and fished for sardines to sell to the local factory. She started lobstering when she was just 8 years old and would go out with her big brother John.
All of her four children lobster, just as her late husband had.
What does Virginia like best about lobstering, "being the boss." She doesn't go out if she doesn't want to but she likes the independence life on the water has afforded her and her family.
The Lobster Lady
Max attributes Virginia's work ethic to her long and healthy life. She says its all about independence.
"You just have to keep going otherwise you would be in a wheelchair or something," said Virginia.
Most days after lobstering, she drives her white pick-up truck down the street to Hannaford.
"I usually bake beans on Saturday and (my kids) come for supper," explains Virginia who is famous for the cake, brownies but especially doughnuts she bakes.
A couple of lobsters she bands each week end up in her kitchen where she likes to eat them in a classic Maine lobster roll; grilled bun, little mayo, and "nothing else!"
A member of the Rockland Historial Society made a short documentary about Virginia a couple of years ago. She's obliging to questions but seems to wonder what the fuss is all about. To herself, she's just a woman who loves the water, her family, and her independence.
When I ask Virginia when she thinks she'll retire her lobster pots, she quickly answers, "When I die." Something she assures me she is not afraid of.
"Everybody gonna die sometime," the Lobster Lady said. "You not gonna live forever, so why let it bother you?"