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'Maddie' Ross, 100: Hard work is key to longevity

BOLTON - It's hard to imagine life in the Adirondacks as being easy for a young family in the 1920s and 1930s, and in plenty of ways, it wasn't. But talking with Bolton centenarian Madaline "Maddie" Ross - who reached the century mark March 11 - when it came to providing for her family, basic old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity ensured there'd always be food on the table, warm clothes for all and a stocked cellar in the winter.

And with six children constantly getting into good-natured mischief, there was never a shortage of fun in the Ross household, either.

Spending the last 83 years at her home and farm at Ross' Corner on New Vermont Rd., Ross and family settled into a comfortable domestic groove long ago.

A mother of six, grandmother of 12, great-grandmother of 15 and great-great-grandmother of 12, Ross turned the family home into a self-sufficient marvel, complete with a range of crops and livestock.

To this day, Ross' relatives smile at the memory of her cooking - her Sunday chicken dinners, homemade ice cream and hot, fresh-baked bread, slathered in hand-churned butter - or the handmade clothing she'd create from leftover fleece. If nothing else, the Ross family never froze or starved.

"All summer long I'd be canning and jarring, so that we'd have food for the winter," Ross reflected, sitting on a recliner in her home this week, surrounded by daughters Iva Reed, Audrey Vernum and granddaughter Bonnie O'Rourke, who nodded their agreement. "In the winter, I would knit."

Ross was born Madaline Burgess in 1910 in Wardsboro, up on Tongue Mountain near the area known as Journey's End. She later settled in Bolton at the age of 16 or 17, after marrying Walter Ross, who labored in a number of local enterprises, including lumber and ice. Stories of the newlyweds are as touching as they are colorful, such as when Ross talked about the dances they would hold in their home, clearing out the furniture to open the space. Men were charged 50 cents for admission and fiddlers often provided the music, including Ross' father. A couple of particularly rowdy, old town drunkards who frequented the dances eventually spelled the event's demise.

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