Longevity is in Rose Treat’s genes. Her Polish grand mother lived to be 104.

On Dec. 7, 2010, Rose Treat celebrated her 102nd birthday surrounded by her friends at her home on Sengekontacket, which she shares with two part-time caregivers: Debbie Jewfry and Denise Walsh.

Rose is well known as a seaweed artist and cataloguer (her work is in the Smithsonian and Polly Hill Arboretum), mycologist and fearsome scrabble player. She grew up on the lower East Side of Manhattan, 4th Street between Avenue A and B to be exact. This was around 1900, when horses were the common mode of transport and indoor plumbing was for the wealthy.

Her childhood memories remain sharp. She told celebrants at her party about saving an oat seed from some feed a horse had dropped in the street. She and her brother planted that seed between two slate tiles in the back yard. So no one would step on it, she drew a circle around the seed and watered it every day. To their delight, a blade of oat grass sprouted up, a testament to the forces of life and loving care.

When she was 12, a deafening noise invaded the classroom at school. Everyone in the school ran out to the street to see what was making the racket. All of the students stood in the street as an airplane flew overhead. It was the first airplane any of the children had ever seen. The year was 1920.

She reminisced fondly about meeting her beloved late husband, the mystery writer Larry Treat, in 1943. She was staying with a friend for Thanksgiving and the two of them cooked up a feast for a crowd. Her friend then decided to ask the writer living down the road for the winter to join them. Rosie said she knew immediately he was the man she wanted to marry.

Once, early on in their marriage, they had a disagreement as couples do. Voices were raised. When the smoke cleared and the argument settled, Larry said to Rose, “It’s natural to disagree but we must not ever yell at each other again.” They stuck to that policy and remained married for 55 years.


Paul Karasik is an artist and the development director of the charter school in West Tisbury.