NAUGATUCK — Franklin Andrew remembers a time when he would ride into downtown Naugatuck on his mother’s horse and buggy. At age 16, Andrew was the only person besides the principal to drive a car to the former Naugatuck High School—what is now City Hill Middle School.
On Sunday, Andrew celebrated his 100th birthday. He was born June 26, 1911, about 100 feet from his current home, a log cabin atop Andrew Mountain, named for his great-grandfather.
Sitting in his cabin, surrounded by paintings he made of cowboys and American Indians silhouetted by the setting sun, Andrew said he doesn’t feel like he’s been around for 100 years.
And he doesn’t look like it either. Andrew walks without a cane and just stopped driving last year. In his trademark cowboy hat, he looks like one of the rugged men in his paintings.
“It’s hard to believe [that I’m turning 100],” he said.
Growing up, Andrew’s family had two houses—a summer home atop Andrew Mountain, which burnt town in 1925, but was rebuilt the following year, and another farm on Woodruff Avenue in downtown Naugatuck.
In the summer, his family would move 13 children and all the farm animals up the mountain, where it was always cooler.
“I’m a farm boy,” Andrew said.
Besides the farm, his father, George Andrew, had a coal and lumber business on Church Street where Naugatuck Savings Bank is now. At one point, Andrew’s father owned all the property along that side of Church Street.
Andrew was the last of the 13 children, and the only one of his siblings still alive. When he was born, some of Andrew’s siblings were already in college, and one of his sisters had her own baby.
“I was born an uncle,” Andrew said.
Andrew used to walk to grammar school at Salem School, about a mile from his family’s house on Woodruff Avenue. But, Andrew said he was never much for school. When he left high school, Andrew worked for Cairns Aircraft, making test planes for the Navy.
Andrew went on to work briefly for a bank and tried raising 500 chickens before settling in at a job at Lewis Engineering. He retired as traffic manager for the firm in charge of shipping and receiving after a 36-year career.
Looking back over his 100 years, Andrew said his best memories are the times he spent with his wife, Rita Bartholomew, who passed away 11 years ago after 68 years of marriage.
He said the secret to a long marriage is just love, plenty of love.
“There’s a lot of love in the family,” he said.
The couple found each other more out of chance nearly 80 years ago.
When he was in his late 20s, Andrew explained he took a girl on a date to visit her friend, Bartholomew, at a candy store in south Meriden. He liked Bartholomew more than his date, Andrew said.
“Then I chased her for a couple of years,” Andrew said. “I couldn’t find a girlfriend over here, so the lord sent me over there.”
In 1940, the couple got married on June 26, the same day as both their birthdays.
The couple had four children of his own – two boys and two girls, and Andrew has 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
His children all still live in the area, and visit him often, he said.
“I just about live here,” said his daughter, Marge Andrew Pierce, who visits her father nearly every day.
Russ lives across the street, and Tim works for the Naugatuck Fire Department. Judy lives in Norwich, Andrew said. With his family visiting often, Andrew said he never gets bored.
“There always seems to be company here,” he said.
Over the years, Andrew enjoyed many hobbies from woodworking to camping. When he was younger, Andrew played guitar and wrote songs for the Yankee Melodeers. The group played country music on WATR radio, Andrew explained.
“We had a lot of fun,” he said.
Nowadays, Andrew loves sitting on his front porch, with its grand view over the valley, and taking pictures of the setting sun.
While Andrew is the oldest living branch of the family tree, his family’s roots stretch deep and wide.
Andrew’s great-grandfather, Robert Treat Paine, signed the Declaration of Independence. His great-grandfather, Rev. Samual Andrew, was one of the founders of Yale University and its second president.
Locally, the family is one of the oldest in Naugatuck.
The Andrew family owned Hunters Mountain State park before selling it to the Whittemores, who then donated it to the state. Andrew Avenue School, Andrew Mountain., Andrew Mountain Road were all named after the family. Franklin Andrew’s father gave Linden Park its name and also named George Street after himself. And, the land the YMCA sits on was donated by the family.
Andrew has carried on that lineage for 100 years. As he sat on his front porch, a few days shy of his birthday, Andrew was asked his secret to a long life. His answer was simple, “Think young,” he said.