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After 98 Years, Irene Harris Is Still Swimming Strong At White Plains' YWCA

Irene Harris at the YWCA on North Street, White Plains.
Irene Harris at the YWCA on North Street, White Plains. Photo Credit: Provided/YWCA of White Plains

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- At the age of 98, Irene Harris is not only the YWCA's longest member, but one of its most dedicated. She can be found swimming at the North Street pool nearly every day.

The Thornwood resident is independent, strong-willed, and self-driven -- literally and figuratively, according to those who know her best.

Harris drives herself to the YWCA to swim laps. Although she admits she was never a strong swimmer, Harris says coming to the YWCA is an enriching part of her day.

She comes not only to swim, but to socialize with YWCA staff and patrons and hear about their lives, according to Andrea Naso-Nord, director of development and communications for the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, and a community advisor to Daily Voice.

Through the Great Depression and cultural oppression, Harris was triumphant in pursuing her four-year undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, and later her master’s degree in nutrition from Columbia University. After college, she married and moved to North Dakota, where she got a job at North Dakota University teaching home management. The class was comprised of eight girls living together for two weeks while they learned nutrition and home maintenance.

Having been retired for only 15 years, Harris is still extremely active within the community. She volunteers at White Plains Hospital as a reading specialist, teaching parents the importance of reading to their children.

“Read, read, read! It enriches your life,'' she said.

Maintaining a healthy diet is not easy for most, but Harris makes it sound easy. “Eat to live” is her philosophy. She believes a successful diet should consist of not too much fat, lean meats and beans. No rice and no white bread ever, she says, but yes to green vegetables.

Harris was asked what she thought of the YWCA mission statement: empowering women and eliminating racism. “Every girl should go to school no matter what, and not just for that ‘computer stuff,'" Harris said. "And they should read more. Not because it makes you more money, but because it makes you more aware of things."

Harris has been a member of the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester for about 50 years.

“I've lived an unbelievable life,'' she said.

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