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Mobility doesn't
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placeholder April 11, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Senior Living & Resources

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, met Desmond Kilmurry on Holy Thursday.

Mobility doesn't deter 102-year-old from Mass

If you're looking for the secret to longevity, Desmond Kilmurry, 102, tells you straight off: "I don't know why, I really don't. I can't account for anything like that."

From his comfortable chair surrounded by books and newspapers, he says, "The eldest in my family was 95. I'm 102. And it's crazy. Here I am."

"I'm very fortunate in the sense that I still have a bit of gray matter," he said. "I get to converse and so forth."

But it's getting around that's the hard part. "My legs don't let me. My knees are poor."

He does get to Mass in the senior center at the Mercy Retirement and Care Center. For the Holy Thursday Mass on March 24, he donned a hat for the trip from his residence to the senior center, then tucked it below the wheelchair during the liturgy.

Desmond Kilmurry and his wife Helen retired to Alma Via in San Francisco, then moved across the Bay because Mercy had the care Helen needed in the last years of her life.

He lived upstairs in the residence, and could spend his time with his wife of 52 years.

Their love story began with their meeting at Old St. Mary's Church in San Francisco. "That was a great place in its day," he recalled. "It was really something." The man from Dublin and the woman from the Midwest were married there by a Paulist priest.

"She was a wonderful person," Kilmurry said of his wife. "She loved her kitchen."

He recalled their home on 20th Avenue in San Francisco, in St. Cecilia's Parish, where he was "14 years a Knight of St. Cecilia." The Knights, according to the parish history, stood guard, enabling the church to be open all night.

Of that home, he recalled, "I had the old kitchen torn out and I had a new kitchen put in. I had put in everything to her own level. I brought it up 3 to 4 inches higher. She didn't have to bend down."

"I'm one of 10," Kilmurry said. "I was an in-between.

"I'm the last one of the whole family. Everybody's gone."

He was the only family member to come to the United States — in the 1940s. "I kept in touch with them all the time," he said. "I rang somebody every week,

"Now and then, you get a longing to call somebody."

"I felt I had to (emigrate)," he said. "I had to do something, I wasn't getting anywhere.

"Wages were small. One reason I left: I couldn't afford to get married. I asked the boss for a raise," he said.

The boss pointed to his co-workers, adding, "They're married."

That was not the life he envisioned.

"I quit. That was it. I went to Canada," he said.

"I had one winter in Canada," he said. "I was out of there pretty fast. Snow! It was dreadful.

"So I came down to San Francisco," he said, where he had a career in retail shoes, retired to take car trips and "a cruise or two" with his beloved, and took her to Ireland seven times.

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