Monday, June 10, will be a very big day for Darien resident Eileen Johnson. On that day, she’ll become a centenarian.
Johnson was born in 1919, the same year Woodrow Wilson was president, women received the right to vote, the pop-up toaster was invented, and gas cost .25 cents a gallon.
To celebrate Johnson’s milestone birthday, her family and friends will come to Maplewood at Darien, an assisted living and memory care facility where she has resided since 2014, and where she currently holds the title of the oldest of 64 residents. There will also be a separate party with fellow residents and staff members in the sunroom. Banners, balloons, cake and even a crown will be part of Johnson’s special day.
The Darien Times visited Maplewood at Darien to speak to Johnson, a retired New Canaan High School math teacher and mother of four, grandmother of four, and great-grandmother of two. Johnson’s son Michael, 69, provided additional information for the story.
The early years
Eileen Hellwig Johnson grew up in Elmhurst, N.Y. She was a tomboy and played a lot of sports.
“I played hockey in the street with the boys,” said Johnson, who has short, white hair and was wearing a floral jacket, red blouse, gold necklace — and a large smile.
Her parents spoke German, and she learned to speak German as well. She also knows Latin.
According to her son Michael, Eileen’s parents were both musicians. “My grandmother played piano and my grandfather played violin, and they would often play duets together,” he said.
“She told us about how, when she was young, she and her older sister Muriel would listen to their parents play while they were lying in bed at night,” said Michael Johnson, a Manhattan resident.
At Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Johnson was class secretary. She later graduated from from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and from Columbia University Teachers College in Manhattan. She became a math teacher.
In 1945, she married Lewis Johnson, who worked as an electrical engineer.
Prior to moving to Darien, Eileen also lived in Portland, Ore. She has lived in Darien since 1959.
After her husband passed away, she reunited with her high school sweetheart. They were together until his death.
At Maplewood, Johnson began another relationship with R. Donald Brown, a fellow resident. She had known him and his family from her church, The First Congregational Church of Darien. They were together until Brown’s death in January.