By Samantha Geary
On February 26, 1909, remnants of a snow storm worried immigrant parents Mary and John Kovach. Their baby was on the way, and they feared they had to press on to get to the hospital so that she could be delivered. John loaded Mary into a sleigh and they made their way to the hospital where baby Anna Kovach was born in a nearby village where she was also baptized. But within two days Anna’s grasp on life seemed as firm as the new-fallen snow. Today, 100 years later, Anna, now known as Annette Fennelly Morris, is still holding on.
Raised in Brockton, a small village in eastern Pennsylvania, coal-mining county, Anna shared her childhood with older sister Marion and a younger brother Michael. The house was surrounded with animals, including a cow and chickens and a vegetable garden in their front yard.
It was there that Anna learned to cope, to care and to survive. Her father was a coal miner her mother a midwife, at times, and caregiver to a town besieged by the terrible influenza that followed the First World War. After leaving home at 16, Anna found her way to a hospital in Allentown where she worked and trained, caring for the ill. She would eventually become a registered nurse in the State of New York, working in hospitals and private settings.
At the age of 27 she married Patrick Fennelly, an Irish immigrant, and after the birth of a daughter, Loretta, moved from the Bronx to Ozone Park in Queens, where she has lived for the past 70 years. Patrick opened a Mobil gasoline service station in Ozone Park, calling the establishment “Paddy’s Super Service.” stood at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 102nd Street. They had two sons, Richard and Robert. After 20 years of marriage, Patrick died. (She is his widow for the past 52 years.) She tried managing the service station on her own for a couple of years but gave it up and relinquished the property back to the oil company and returned to private duty nursing, considering herself no longer qualified for hospital work. A Dunkin' Donuts now sits over one of the service bays.
In 1971 she married William (Bill) Morris, a retired NYC lieutenant firefighter and occasional pallbearer. They traveled. Bill too is gone for many years. She now has two cats, Bushy and Kit.
She attributes her longevity to eating sensibly and avoiding saturated fats, to her nursing skills and those of contemporary medical providers, and to good luck. She broke a hip on her 95th birthday, received a replacement and walks, but much more carefully. And the luck part, that’s genetics. Her mother held on for 103 years.
When asked about how she feels about entering the age of the centenarian, Anna sat and stroked one of her feline companions, Bushy. "I have to say, the first hundred years was not always so good. I expect it will get easier from now on in." Still sporting a hopeful outlook Anna says, "I think I'll just take it day by day from here on in."