Schenectady County

Man on long journey through life

Steven Shaw’s hands traced over the scrapbook page as he read out loud an old saying he’d kept.


Steven Shaw’s hands traced over the scrapbook page as he read out loud an old saying he’d kept.

“I shall pass through this world but once,” he read, continuing the quotation that pledges good and kindness.

“That’s my motto,” Shaw said. “And I try to live by it.”

Shaw’s journey through this world has certainly been a long one.

He turned 101 years old last month.

He can’t walk much anymore. His hearing is going and he has a touch of arthritis. But his lungs are good and his heart is real good, the doctors told him.

But the long-retired General Electric worker can say something many of his centenarian brethren cannot. He still lives at home, with at least one assistant there around the clock.

And he’s sharp, too.

He reads The Daily Gazette front to back every day. He was even in it last year with a Letter to the Editor, worried about Niskayuna’s recent reassessment.

About the recent economic crisis, he’s quick to give his take.

“They’re a bunch of crooks, the bankers,” he said. “I don’t know how they got away with it.”

Asked whether it reminded him of anything, he told of his time during the Depression. He and his wife Rhea were fortunate to have jobs throughout; he worked for Standard Oil, she worked at a flower shop.

Steven and Rhea married in 1930, three years after they met by chance in Schenectady’s Central Park. Each was with friends as their paths crossed near the pond.

He remembered the day they met, 80 years ago, like it was yesterday. She had black hair, and “very blue eyes.”

“When I looked at her, something happened to me and I said ‘geez, that’s a nice girl.’ ”

After Standard Oil, he got a job at General Electric in quality control in 1940, retiring 31 years later. In retirement, the couple loved to travel. If they disagreed on a destination, her choice would usually win out.

They were together for seven decades plus. She passed away in January 2004 at the age of 92. They had one daughter, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

It was after his wife’s death that Shaw met medical assistant Cheryll Squadere, 40. He had been having difficulties living alone and he didn’t want to go to an assisted-living facility.

Now Squadere and three other assistants keep watch over him and keep him in his home. His assistant with him Friday was Squadere’s sister-in-law, Gretchen Squadere.

“Steven is a sweetheart,” Cheryll Squadere said. “You can’t help but love him.

“He’s the nicest person in the world.”

As for his longevity, he’s not the first in his family whose pass has been lengthy. His father, a doctor, died in 1918 during the flu pandemic. His mother, however, passed away in 1981 at age 101.

Shaw’s story is one that is becoming more common in these days of medical advancements.

In 1990, there were an estimated 37,000 people aged 100 or more in the country, according to U.S. Census figures. By last November, that number had jumped to an estimate of just under 97,000.

By 2050, advancements could have that number at more than 600,000, according to federal estimates.

Shaw couldn’t pinpoint a single reason why he’s lasted so long. He never drank much. He smoked pipes and cigars until about six years ago. Rhea, however, never allowed him to smoke in the house.

He stayed active, working around the house. He was never a fussy eater.

“Everybody I know’s always been friendly with me,” he said. “I never had no trouble.”

“I behaved myself.”

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