Harvey and Elizabeth Boswell have a self-deprecating way of looking at living well into their 90s. “Not many people live long enough to have both their daughters on Medicare,” Elizabeth jokes.
Indeed, the couple’s two daughters, Diana, 71, and Susan, 65, who both live in Maryland, have reached retirement age. The Boswells have five grandsons and six great-grandchildren, and in November, they will celebrate 72 years of marriage.
“It’s been tough,” Harvey says in deadpan fashion.
“I deserve a medal,” Elizabeth jumps in right away.
Even at age 95, they come off as two sides of a coin: Elizabeth is gregarious, witty and quick with a joke. Harvey is reserved and quiet, contemplatively sitting back in his chair while occasionally rising to move around a bit. They both use walkers now, but Harvey doesn’t like sitting around for too long.
Reaching their 90s is something that runs in both their families: Elizabeth’s mother and grandmother both lived until they were 92, and her oldest sister lived to 100. Harvey’s mother and father both lived into their 90s. Elizabeth’s father died when she was 16, so Harvey’s family was like a second one for her. Both of them are from South Baltimore; Elizabeth said they actually lived a few blocks from each other but didn’t meet until later in life.
The two of them loved growing up in Baltimore in the 1940s and 1950s, a time when Elizabeth said the town was booming, and kids freely walked and played. Her neighborhood was a mix of European immigrants, primarily Polish and German. “They were truly the good old days, no matter what anybody says,” Elizabeth said.
Harvey begins to tell the story of his life, saying, “Well, I quit school in the eighth grade,” before Elizabeth interrupts. “Eighth grade? You sure you didn’t go a little higher than that?”
“It was the 11th grade,” he says.
“Thank you,” she says, as he cracks a smile.
“She keeps me straight,” he said.
Harvey worked in the shipyards around Baltimore after leaving school. When World War II broke out, he wanted to enlist but his mother wouldn’t let him. No matter, as Harvey got drafted into the service, where he eventually spent three years.
Harvey said he wanted to join the paratroopers. As he put it, he didn’t feel like walking all over Europe. He thought paratroopers would just jump out of airplanes. “We walked more than the infantry,” Harvey said.
He was there on June 6, 1944, as the Allies began their invasion of Normandy. It was a cloudy day, and numerous planes got lost or dropped soldiers far off their intended targets. Harvey said his plane got lost and accidentally dropped him behind enemy lines.
“We got into a bivouac area, and somebody threw a grenade. That scattered us. We hadn’t got any sleep for four or five days. We ended up in a hedge, three of us, and the next morning we got woke up by about 20 German troops. That was it; they put us in a prison. We got walked back to Paris train station and from there we got on the train and they took us back east. When we got liberated, we had put nine months in the prison we were in,” he said.
To this day, Harvey said, he doesn’t like to fly anymore.
After landing back in the States, he went to Fort Meade in Maryland, where his mother and father met him. After a furlough, he was offered the chance to be a sergeant, but he declined and was discharged.
While her future husband was off fighting the war, Elizabeth was back home, working her job with the telephone company. She recalled wearing armbands for identification in case of air raids.
They met through Harvey’s sister, who worked with Elizabeth at C&P Telephone of Maryland. Elizabeth had gone to work there after her father died.
Elizabeth, one of six siblings, said after the relationship with Harvey got more serious, “She didn’t like me as much because she was the apple of her father’s eye. My father passed away when I was 16 so I latched on to his father. Things worked out,” she said.
They married on Nov. 1, 1947.
“My father had passed away; I thought my mother was going to go to when I told her I was going to get married,” Elizabeth said.
“You were scared you wouldn’t hook me,” Harvey cracks.
“If I knew then what I know now,” Elizabeth said.
The couple lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Baltimore, which is on the southern edge of the city near the Anne Arundel County line. They lived there until the late 1970s, when they started thinking about retirement. Harvey wanted to move to Florida, but Elizabeth wanted to remain close to her family. She said they saw an ad for property at Angola Beach and Estates in Long Neck, a manufactured home development.
“At that time, they were called trailers,” Elizabeth said. “My mother had a fit because I was going to have a trailer. I said, ‘Mom, they’re not like they used to be.’”
They bought their first place in 1978, two years before Elizabeth retired in 1980. Harvey retired in 1984 after a career with Westinghouse and they moved to Angola full time.
“We’re not only the oldest people but maybe the oldest residents,” she said.
The couple plans to have a small family gathering for their anniversary. When reflecting on their lives, Elizabeth has one more joke to crack.
“All in all, it’s been a good life. But no way did I think I would live this long,” she said.