Alice Caroline Fleming, 102, seamstress, teacher, beautician

April 19, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

For the last 30 years, Alice Caroline Fleming ate a simple dinner that may have contributed to her longevity: a boiled chicken breast, rice, string beans, corn bread and a bowl of ice cream.

That diet -- along with lots of fresh air and a positive outlook toward life -- enabled Mrs. Fleming to reach the age of 102. She died April 5 of natural causes at the St. Agnes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ellicott City.

Her bland dinner fare began as a remedy for high blood pressure the mid 1960s, but was not required for the last 30 or so years. She just seemed to like the combination, said her granddaughter, Lareda V. Kellam of Catonsville.

"On holidays and at barbecues she ate other foods, but she seemed to like that chicken and rice when she was at home. So she continued to eat it," Ms. Kellam said.

Until she moved to the nursing home last year, Mrs. Fleming had lived alone for 17 years in a Columbia apartment building, where she cooked and cared for herself and did her own grocery shopping.

In an interview two years ago, Mrs. Fleming offered this observation on becoming a centenarian: "To me, the achievement isn't just getting to be an old lady, the achievement is enjoying living."

Although born in a less technological era, she easily adapted and enjoyed using modern appliances. But she did have one quirk.

"She'd always boil the water she used for cooking and drinking," Ms. Kellam said. "I think it comes from the days when she used well water."

A native of Richmond, Va., Mrs. Fleming moved to Madison Avenue in West Baltimore in 1918, to Ellicott City in 1941 and to Marriottsville in 1962. In 1979, she moved to the Owen Brown Place in Columbia -- a senior citizen's apartment building -- where she lived until moving into the nursing home last year.

The former Alice Caroline Jones married George Fleming in 1916. He died in 1974.

She worked as a seamstress, teacher, beautician and live-in maid as a young woman for several households.

Mrs. Fleming was a very skilled seamstress and at age 89 made a wedding dress and a maid of honor gown for two friends. Relatives said she could make clothing from any material.

"She's made dresses from tablecloths and clothes from the bags that seed come in," said her daughter, Rebecca A. Clark of


Services were held April 9.

Other survivors include a daughter, Esther I. Wright of Baltimore; 14 grandchildren; 39 great-grandchildren; and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 4/19/97

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