Pauline D. “Aunt Polly” Carico, a retired Harford County elementary school teacher who gained centenarian status by doing all things in moderation, died Aug. 29 from congestive heart failure at her home in Norrisville. She was 105.
“Pauline was just a wonderful, quiet person who didn’t miss anything,” said the Rev. Melissa A. McDade, pastor of Norrsiville United Methodist Church, where Mrs. Carico had been a lifelong member.
“She never complained or talked poorly about anyone. She always had a smile on her face,” Ms. McDade said. “We need more people like that.”
The former Pauline Elizabeth Duncan was born and raised on the family dairy farm near Norrisville, the daughter of Robert L. Duncan and Hannah D. Duncan. Her paternal grandfather, Andrew Duncan, had served with Purnell Legion, Co. A., Maryland Cavalry, and fought with Union forces at the Battle of Gettysburg.
As a child as attended the Carea School in Harford, and graduated in 1931 from Jarrettsville High School, where she met her future husband, Talmadge Carico. They married in 1937.
Mrs. Carico attended the former Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, and received a bachelor’s degree in education from Towson State Teachers College, now Towson University.
After graduation, she returned to the Carea School to accept a teaching job. She taught all seven grades, with 40 students in the one-room school, until 1950. She then joined the faculty of Highland Elementary School in Street. She retired in 1971.
Mrs. Carico taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and civics.
“She has memories of the U.S. mail being delivered by Mr. Herbert on horseback, going to a spring to get water and bringing in wood to keep Carea School warm,” reported The Aegis newspaper on the occasion of her 100th birthday.
The Carea School was later heated by a coal stove, which Mrs. Carico had to make sure was going by Sunday so the school would be warm Monday mornings at the start of the school week. Other duties included oiling the school’s wooden floor, making sure the outhouse was clean and ringing the schoolhouse bell each morning that summoned her students to school at 8:30 a.m.
School started promptly at 9 a.m., with a Bible reading followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Mrs. Carico then sat at the pump organ while her charges sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — replaced by “Jingle Bells” at Christmastime.
Mrs. Carico had a special chair for students who required a bit of discipline.
“I had in this corner a little chair, we called it the thinking chair, and when you did something you shouldn’t do, you went back and sat on the thinking chair,” Mrs. Carico told The Baltimore Sun in a 2003 interview. She recalled one incident when a child needed to do some “thinking.”
“Just a little first-grade kid, I sent him back to sit on the thinking chair. After a while I heard this kicking and kicking, and I didn’t say anything. Then I noticed the other kids in the room were beginning to think that this was funny, you know. … I saw him give another kick, and I said, ‘Dickie!’ He said, ‘Well, damn! I’m mad,’ ” she said, laughing at the recollection.
She was affectionately known as “Aunt Polly,” and it was said that during her lengthy career she had taught whole families.
Mrs. Carico and her husband lived at Cariacres farm on Carico Lane in Shawsville, where they raised Guernsey cattle. In addition to being a teacher, she milked cows, hand-churned butter, canned vegetables and made soap. She was also known for preparing and serving hearty meals to the men who came in the fall to help with the harvest.
In 1960, they moved to another farm on Jolly Farm Road just south of Norrisville, where she lived for the rest of her life. Her husband died in 1974.
Mrs. Carico was a member of The Grange, the Eastern Star, Madonna AARP and the Tau Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma.
In 1996 she was named a Harford County Living Legend.
She enjoyed collecting antique furniture. Her church was a major focal point of her life.
“She was a behind-the-scenes person and didn’t want to do leadership roles, she let others do that,” Ms. McDade said. “She was still coming to church when she was a 104-and-a-half.”
She and her husband were world travelers and had “visited every state,” said a niece, Carolyn D. Morris, who lives across the street from her aunt in Norrisville.
Mrs. Carico lived alone and independently for more than 40 years after the death of her husband.
“She was always positive and happy,” Mrs. Morris said.
While Mrs. Carico avoided tobacco and alcohol, she ate anything she wanted, her niece said, and followed no particular regimen — other than being a hard worker throughout her life.
“She cooked with lard and butter and was known for her pecan tarts,” her niece said. “She took no medications, and never had a doctor until two months ago. The day before she died, her blood pressure was 105 over 70.”
There was something else that Mrs.Carico liked to reflect upon.
“She’d say, I’m 105 and I don’t dye my hair,’” her niece said. “She still had her beautiful auburn hair that had very little gray in it.”
Services were held Sept. 3 at her church.
In addition to her niece, Mrs. Carico is survived by eight other nieces and nephews.