Her friends who swim and work out at Massabesic Health Resources call Rita Anderson of Hollis their “Pool Matriarch,” They threw a party for her on Thursday, marking her 90th birthday. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

WATERBORO — Nine decades ago, a baby girl was born to Chester and Bertha Burnham. It was two minutes after midnight on April 18, when the little girl entered the world, born at the home of her grandparents in Buxton.

A month later, she said on Thursday, her parents took her home to Hollis.

Rita Anderson, who married her next door neighbor, Frank Anderson on July 10, 1948, marked her 90th birthday on Thursday at Massabesic Health Resources, where she works out at the gym and swims in the pool every day the weather is fit for her to drive there.

Anderson is among the 20 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million population older than 65, U.S. Census records show and is now a member of another select group: Because of increases in life expectancy, people 90 and older now comprise 4.7 percent of the older population (age 65 and older) nationwide, as compared with 2.8 percent in 1980. By 2050, this share is likely to reach 10 percent, according to census information.

The party was a surprise, and there were many in the function room to wish Anderson well, all “pool girls” who also swim at the facility, said Claire Morin, one of the party organizers.

”She’s our pool matriarch,” said Diane Dyer, who has been Anderson’s friend and neighbor for 32 years. “She’s here every day.”

In a brief interview, Anderson reflected on some of her accomplishments throughout the years — including her return to university in 1981 to earn her bachelor’s degree in education. She said she’d had one year of college before her marriage, and together she and Frank raised four children — daughters, Louisa, Wanda and Ramona, and son, Harry. Her late husband and children encouraged her to return to finished her education and so she did, later working for School Administrative District 6 as a tutor, substitute teacher and GED teacher for 21 years.

Children have figured largely in her life — and still do. Anderson sews fleece hats for youngsters in the local elementary school’s after school program and at Christmas gives a book to every child in the program.

Anderson previously served her community on the Hollis budget committee.

Rita Anderson of Hollis, center, turned 90 on Thursday and her friends threw a party to mark the occasion at Massabesic Health Resources, where she works out and swims most days. Joining her for a photo were friends Sandy Bartlett, left, and Ruth Buck. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

“I said ‘no’ a lot of times,” she said of her budget work.

She attends Bar Mills Community Church, where she sings in the choir and sews for church projects — and said her own family and church family threw her a party to mark her birthday on Sunday.

As well, she helps out at her daughter’s place, Snell Family Farm, trimming garlic and minding the greenhouse during the pick-your-own season in the orchard.

“I can’t believe I made 90,” said Anderson. She told Hayes Sweeney, one of the owners of Massabesic Health Resources, that she believes her daily workout and swim at the facility have played a role in her well-being.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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