Bellingham’s Szuflicki Reaches the Age of 101
Stacia Szuflicki looks great for 101
Long-time Bellingham resident Stacia Szuflicki recently celebrated her 101st birthday, most of those years spent living in Bellingham. She recently met with us at the Lydia Taft House in Uxbridge, where she has lived since last December, to talk about her experiences over the years.
Stacia recalled, “I was one of seven children. My father was a salesman; he sold cars at a Buick dealership in Woonsocket. I’m the oldest daughter in my family, and went to school in Bellingham at the old South School [where Crooks Corner is now]. I loved to play baseball at recess. Each day I walked to school with my siblings. My mother worked as a weaver in a mill on Social Street, and my grandmother lived with us and cared for us while my mother worked.”
Stacia continued, “I loved to swim—I often swam the length of Harris Pond and back, and swam at Silver Lake. I was a member of the 4-H club here in town. That’s how I learned to sew. My first machine was a pedal sewing machine.” She noted, “I never sewed for others professionally.”
“But she could have,” her only son, Paul Szuflicki, a life-long Bellingham resident, pointed out.
Stacia grew up during the Great Depression and left Bellingham after completing the 8th grade to work in a mill in Haverhill, living with her grandmother and an aunt. She met her future husband, Hiplot (Paul) while living in Haverhill. Stacia recalled, “We went on a date one night to Lawrence to see a movie, but a snowstorm struck and we couldn’t get back to Haverhill so I had to stay over at Paul’s house. We were there with his whole family, but when I got back to my grandmother’s the next day she was so angry. She was very strict. You didn’t do things like that.”
The couple married in 1941, but with the outbreak of WWII Paul signed up for the armed services and Stacia returned to Bellingham to live with her parents on Stockholm Street, where she’d grown up. Stacia raised her one son, Paul J. Szuflicki, in Bellingham; when he grew up, he married Therese, and they have remained here in Bellingham on the street he was born on. “My husband Paul and I lived with my parents until we built another house on the same street,” Stacia explained.
A woman with an eye for fashion who was always impeccably dressed, Stacia worked at several area stores selling women’s dresses, including McCarthy’s Department Store in Woonsocket. “I was in an elevator accident in McCarthy’s in the 1960s,” Stacia noted. “We were in the elevator when the cable let go and dropped. It didn’t hit the [bottom] floor or I wouldn’t be here today, but my back was seriously injured, another woman broke her ankles, and another broke her leg. We had to get rescued to get out of the elevator.”
“The elevator had just been inspected the day before,” her son Paul explained. “It was just one of those things. But Stacia has to use braces for her legs—the accident has caused back problems for Stacia ever since it happened.”
Despite the accident, Stacia returned to work, and later worked for Zayre’s in their bridal department. “I always liked fashion, and had a large shoe collection,” she said. “I loved meeting different people. I was able to find work where I didn’t have to stand all the time so that worked for me.”
Stacia also reflected on life with her husband, who was a son of Polish immigrants. Paul had attended a Polish school when he was growing up in Lawrence and was fluent in both Polish and German. “After WWII the U.N. wanted us to move to New York so he could work for the Polish embassy,” Stacia said. “It would have been quite an opportunity for him. But I was glad we stayed here.” Paul was a founding member of the Polish-American Club on Westminster Street, no longer in existence.
“But the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be,” Stacia said, shaking her head.
With her hearing intact and her eyes wide open, Stacia Szuflicki has seen a lot in over 100 years, and it’s been quite a ride.