By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter,7/1996

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I have a great affection for seniors. Taking care of Nana for so many years and listening to her talk about her amazing life made a positive difference in my life. Nearly 3 years after her death, I find myself thinking about her often, and missing our talks.

Many other seniors – my mom’s mother, aunt’s and friends – have touched my life and made it a happier place to be.

My friend Eileen was a beautiful person who retired from many years of service to St. Margaret’s hospital and immediately volunteered her time to continue to help at that institution. She was a spiritual woman, more at peace with the world than most anyone I’ve ever met.

My best friend David’s grandmother still drove and went to dances well into her 80s, cooked dinners for up to 25 family members, ran her house for 50 years, and, at age 82, worked part time at a rest home. She was an inspiration to everyone who knew her, and I was proud to be one of her “honorary” grandchildren.

Mary Cicciu
Mary Cicciu

No less inspiring is Foxboro’s Mary Cicciu, senior aide at Foxboro’s Council on aging. You might have seen the picture of Mary celebrating her birthday in the Foxboro reporter a few weeks back.

Everyone loves Mary, and with good reason. She is energetic and fascinating, having lived in Foxboro more than 50 years. While I know little of her early years here, the Mary I have met and gotten to know has touched my heart. She is a sweet woman, friendly and goodhearted, and seemingly determined to brighten the day of everyone she meets.

Mary’s example of kindness, loving and sacrifice are well known throughout Foxboro. For more than 20 years she has been involved as a senior aide grant through HESSCO that teachers senior citizens new skills.

Mary has been assisting Lorraine Garland and Carol Haddad at the Council on aging for the past two years, and helps in a variety of capacities – crafts, fund raising, office paperwork, and so on. She also covers the phones one Lorraine and Carol are out of the office.

At senior related events, she is always at the forefront, collecting tickets, soliciting members for the friends of Foxboro seniors, or just making things easier for everyone else involved. You’ll always find a small crowd around Mary because everyone wants to see her.

What makes Mary so amazing is that she recently celebrated her 85th birthday – and unlike many others half her age, she shows no signs of slowing down. She is still sharp, and will tell you about days gone by with the same vivid clarity as anything that happened just last week. Rather than get stuck in the “bygone days” rot, her focus is firmly on the future, helping to make Foxboro a better place. She is truly 85 years young.

There are a great deal of self help books on the shelves these days that claim to have found the secret for staying young – everything from diet to exercise to being more in harmony with the universe. In the better books by the more reputable authors (there are a few) one of the keys to staying young is thinking young.

A common thread running through Deepak Chopra’s book “ageless body, timeless mind” is that age is a state of mind. Yes, our body will change as we grow older. But that’s no reason to give in to the aging process or to stop learning and growing.

Once we yield to the aging process we start to die. By helping others, staying involved and thinking young we remain young. A positive attitude goes a long way.

Mary’s example is one we should all follow. Her generous and loving nature makes our town a better place, and Mary is living proof that people have value no matter what their age.

I’ve often said it’s important to listen to our senior citizens – and it’s interesting that some of them can show us the secret of eternal youth.

Note, many years later: this was one of my very first published columns for the Foxboro Reporter. I vividly remember how much Mary appreciated this column. She would show it to people, and often told me how much it meant to her. I am so happy that she saw it and knew how very appreciated she really was.

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