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The year Tim Donovan was born — 1919 — former President Teddy Roosevelt died, Congress approved an amendment giving women the right to vote, and Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees by the Boston Red Sox.
On March 18, Donovan joined the rare — but growing — segment of the population to celebrate a 100th birthday. Accordingly, a birthday celebration took place at Crosby Commons, where Donovan has lived for the past 10 years. A native of Haverhill, Mass., Donovan has lived in Shelton since 1962.
Donovan’s response to achieving his centenary? “Wow!” he exclaimed, in an exchange with Kelly Coppola, Crosby’s activities director. “How did I ever get to be 100?”
"Still, there he was, in the Commons’ main dining room, hosting a celebration attended by friends, family and other residents of Crosby Commons. It was held, appropriately, a day early — on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 — and was followed by a celebratory mass and St. Patrick’s Day party, complete with Irish coffee and soda bread.
Centenarians are a growing segment of the population, including at Crosby Commons, where five other current residents were born in 1919. According to the publication Genealogy in Time, about one person in every 6,000 reaches a 100th birthday today. Fifty years ago, only one in every 67,000 reached the century mark.
What’s the secret? In Donovan’s case, the key has been staying active and engaged in a variety of social and creative activities. His strong Catholic faith was also instrumental. His wife, Ruth, died in 1989 followed by the death of the couple’s only son, Michael, in 1991. That faith, coupled with an upbeat personality, kept him from letting anything get him down.
A beloved pastime
For starters, after retiring after a 44-year career as a design engineer, Donovan pursued additional education in his first love: art, drawing and painting.
A tableau of Donovan’s works was on display at the birthday celebration, including a few nature studies, such as an Australian fig tree, as well as a drawing of the Derby-Shelton bridge. But portraiture is Donovan’s forte. In the grouping were works described as a beautiful portrait of his late wife, Ruth, as well as a striking portrait of an unidentified older man, noteworthy for his thick white hair and beard.
Donovan’s affinity for drawing dates to childhood: He credits his dad, a house painter and interior designer, with giving him an artistic sensibility. Yet he also liked to design and take apart objects, and as a young man earned a degree in engineering from Villanova. Subsequent jobs occasionally utilized his drafting skills.
Donovan’s longest stint was at New Haven-based MITE Corp., which was acquired by Emhart Corp. a year before he retired in 1986. Now shuttered, MITE was a supplier to the aviation industry.