Bertha Montgomery and four of five generations of her family on July 10 at Kaler-Vaill retirement home on Black Point Road in Scarborough. She said that she has not seen most of her family since before COVID-19 began. Catherine Bart photo

Bertha Montgomery, resident at Kaler-Vaill retirement home in Scarborough, will turn 100 in April 2022. She grew up in Portland and has been living at the retirement home since 2013. Catherine Bart photo

SCARBOROUGH — A 99-year-old resident at Kaler-Vaill retirement home had a surprise reunion with part of her family on July 10, after not having seen them since January of 2020.

A resident of the Kailer-Vaill women’s retirement home on Black Point Road in Scarborough since 2013, Bertha Montgomery is turning 100 next April, and her family said they are happy to be able to celebrate the milestone after almost two years of isolation.

Judy Montgomery, Bertha Montgomery’s daughter, surprised her mother with a visit from granddaughters Stephanie Javaheri, Jennifer Flagg and grand-niece Christina Ventresca, who now live out of state. The family said they have many memories of spending time together while growing up in Maine and during yearly get-togethers.

Born on April 22, 1922 as Bertha Brien, Bertha Montgomery is a Maine native, born and raised in Portland, she said. She graduated from Deering High School, where she met her husband, Edward Montgomery, and the two were married for 54 years.

“When I was three years old, my dad had just finished building his own house on Caleb Street, and that’s where I grew up, right on Caleb Street, which was a lovely neighborhood, nice neighbors, things to do,” she said. “We didn’t do the things then as they do today — believe me. It was all home things that we did, going swimming in groups, all going together.”

After graduating from high school, Bertha Montgomery worked in a variety of positions, like babysitting, waitressing and working in a doctor’s office, before getting married, she said.

“Then (World War II) broke out,” she said. “My brothers were in the service. My husband was in the service. All my cousins were in the service, all the boys. So we just had to make a go of it. My husband hadn’t seen his son until he was almost four years old.”

She had four children, she said. Her daughter added that they were all born between 1944 and 1952.

Bertha Montgomery’s oldest brother, Ernest Brien, celebrated his 100th birthday in Cape Elizabeth last October, Judy Montgomery said. He was often stationed in Fort Williams and served during World War II and beyond, until 1962, according to the Cape Elizabeth Historical Society.

“My biggest thrill was when my husband got home and my brothers got home,” Bertha Montgomery said. “They were all safe and all of them had been in the service. My oldest brother had been injured three times. My brother and my cousin came into the house one day, and we were talking. They told us a lot about the service and what was going on, and (my brother) said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it again. Don’t ask me another question.’ So we just ended it right then and there.”

There is longevity in Bertha Montgomery’s lineage, said her family. Her father lived past the age of 100.

Besides being an avid swimmer in her youth, Bertha Montgomery also enjoyed knitting as she grew older, and would knit clothing items for each of her grandchildren, Judy Montgomery said. She now has five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Each April, the family comes up to Maine in celebration of Bertha Montgomery’s birthday, said Judy Montgomery. Because of COVID-19, they haven’t been able to celebrate for the last two birthdays.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult, made worse with the severe social isolation in 2020 and early 2021, Bertha Montgomery said.

“I thought it was horrible,” she said. “We were confined to the house. I had fallen once and I was confined to the room for 13 days all by myself. I couldn’t go out of my room, so that was torture. My meals were served into my room for me, and they tried to keep me happy, bring me in things I could do on my own.”

Being able to see some of her family again, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, was a thrill, Bertha Montgomery said.

“They grow so fast it isn’t funny,” she said of her great-grandchildren who were visiting at the retirement home. “It’s been two years since I’ve seen them.”

Judy Montgomery added that she had not been able to see her mom in person until this year.

“This, for mom, even for me, it was a good year-and-a-half before we were vaccinated, before I could even come in to come over to see her,” she said. “We talked on the phone, but that was it. So this is huge for mom to be able to see part of the family at this time.”

As a resident of Kaler-Vaill, Bertha Montgomery, living independently, is still active and healthy today, walking and sitting outside often, Jennywren Walker, executive director of the retirement home, said. She has a great sense of humor, which can be seen in her attitude towards her walking cane.

Bertha Montgomery explained why she started calling her cane “Trouble.”

“I said, ‘I don’t need a cane,’ and they said, ‘Yes, you do. There are no railings outside,'” she said. “So I had to start learning how to use the cane, and I would leave it places. I’d forget it when I was out. So I said, ‘Oh, that’s more trouble than it’s worth. I’m in trouble if I take it and I’m in trouble if I don’t take it, so what’s the sense of arguing.’ Most of the time I’m swinging it.”

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