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106-year-old Owings Mills resident ate bacon and eggs every morning

Lifelong Baltimore resident Edith Freedman, 106, poses for a photo with Medicine Aide Maura Moran, right, in her room at The Atrium Village in Owings Mills, MD on Tuesday, May 31, 2016.
Lifelong Baltimore resident Edith Freedman, 106, poses for a photo with Medicine Aide Maura Moran, right, in her room at The Atrium Village in Owings Mills, MD on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

With her crown of wavy hair, contagious laugh and vivid blue eyes, it's hard to believe that Edith Freedman just turned 106 years old. One of the oldest residents at Atrium Village assisted-living facility in Owings Mill, Freedman shrugs her shoulders when asked what her secret has been to such a long life.

"Everything I did wrong," she said, laughing. "For instance, I had bacon and eggs every morning — whatever wasn't good for me is what I ate.

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"I can't see, I can't hear — other than my stomach, I'm fine."

Born May 16, 1910, Freedman grew up on Collington Avenue in East Baltimore. "When I was young we didn't have electric, we had a gas burner that came out of the wall and we had an outhouse," she said with a chuckle. Her family got around town using a horse and buggy, but when she turned 16, her father bought her a used Chrysler.

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Her father, Louis Clavens, was a tailor by trade and her mother, Faye, a homemaker. Freedman was especially close to her younger sister Hilda and gets teary-eyed when she speaks of her.

"We were inseparable," she said. "She was the best sister anyone could have, how I loved her."

Edith's sister Hilda Greenberg also lived at Atrium Village until her death four years ago at age 94. Hilda's son Alan, 78, visits his aunt weekly and has fond memories of her. "When my mom was dying, she told me to take care of my Aunt Edith," Greenberg said.

"He does all my shopping for me," Freedman said. "He takes care of me."

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Four other residents where Freedman lives have reached the century mark, and they are in good company. According to a recent Baltimore Sun article, about 1,800 Maryland residents are 100 or older, and the number is growing. Nationwide, there was a 43 percent increase in centenarians between 2000 and 2014, to nearly 72,200.

The decline in the number of people dying from heart disease is a factor why people are living longer. In fact, the treatment of heart disease has improved so much that cancer is expected to eventually surpass it as the leading killer of the elderly, according to medical experts.

A lasting love

Although Freedman never had children of her own, she likes being called "Granny" by those who care for her. Maura Moran has attended to Freedman for four years and said the elderly woman looks at the staff as family. "She treats us like her grandchildren," Moran said.

Freedman met the love of her life, Jack, on a blind date and married at 17.

"When I got married, you didn't have to show a [driver's] license, all you had to do was tell them your age," she reminisced. "I fibbed a little bit and told them I was 18 [the legal age] and got a license." The couple lived many happy years in Hamilton and ran a successful tailoring shop on Hartford Road in downtown Baltimore until Jack's death in 1960.

"He was an artist in tailoring, he would look at a person, check them out without a fitting and it always fit," Freedman said. "He was an artist in his trade, that's the truth."

Greenberg remembers the tailor shop well and said he loved hanging around their store. "Aunt Edith tried to keep it going after Uncle Jack died," he said, "but it got to be too much — the neighborhood really supported her because they loved her so much. She was kind to everyone."

Freedman said she didn't want to remarry after her husband died.

"I could never replace my husband," she said. Freedman has fond memories of the couple listening to the Victrola, Saturday night poker games with friends and making her famous crab soup. The poker games continued after Jack passed away, and now she enjoys watching game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" on television.

Freedman isn't sure what the secret to a happy marriage is but she said it was good to keep some things secret.

"He used to give me breakfast in bed, and I hated it, oh I hated to eat in bed," She said. "But he never knew it — I never told him."

Freedman's affection for those around her is mutual; people stop by to hug her and tease her about her love of chocolate. Her other favorite vice used to be beer, but now she only drinks the nonalcoholic version. She also loves wine and asks one of her caregivers if the bottle in her refrigerator will interfere with her medication.

"Beer I love," she said smiling broadly. "Crabs and beer — oh my goodness,"

Her nephew laughs when he recounts her lifestyle. "She never did anything like they do now," he said. "She never drank water, she never exercised or walked."

Jennifer Emerick, 38, has known Freedman for two years, ever since she started her job as a medicine aide.

"She is a joy to take care of," Emerick said.

Emerick said that Freedman always invites the staff to come by, say hello and eat some chocolate with her.

"She takes care of herself," Emerick said, "which is amazing considering her age."

Freedman is a little distressed that her television set has stopped working, but she loves to read mysteries — she points out she needs large print — and still crochets.

"I'm not as fast," she said, showing off a large purple throw she made that sits on her lap.

"She's a fantastic human being," said Kelly Brunstetter, assisted living director. "She's very positive; every day she tells me she loves me."

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