Community celebrates Dartmouth's newest centenarian

Oct 31, 2017

On Janet Ratcliffe’s birthday, dozens of her close friends and partners in her numerous volunteering endeavors showed up at The Residence at Cedar Dell for her party. She also received an unexpected visitor – New Bedford mayor Joe Mitchell.

That’s for two reasons. For one, Ratcliffe is Dartmouth’s newest 100-year-old resident – and staff at the Residence at Cedar Dell always make sure to celebrate their newest centenarians. She’s also a pillar in the New Bedford community, due to her decades of service as a schoolteacher and volunteer at several organizations.

She was born in Lowell on October 30, 1917, and developed a love of sports at a young age, learning how to sail and swim and play various sports growing up as a kid.

“In those days we used to play a lot of outside games… I did a lot of that,” Ratcliffe said.

Deciding to combine her love of teaching and music, she attended the Lowell State Teachers’ College – now the University of Massachusetts Lowell – and taught locally for a short period of time before receiving her master’s degree in voice and piano from Columbia University and moving to New Bedford.

She taught in New Bedford for nearly her entire career, starting out as a music teacher and eventually becoming the chairperson of the school district’s music department before retiring after 38 years.

“We were a very musical family, and I did a lot of music in church,” Ratcliffe said of her inspiration to pursue music.

Even at the age of 100, Ratcliffe isn’t quite slowing down. She still drives, and continues her mission of volunteerism she began at the New Bedford YWCA and other New Bedford non-profits by serving in the Residence’s Resident Council.

She credits her faith – she’s been an active church-goer since childhood – and the friends she’s made throughout her life, and staying active in the community as keys in keeping her body and mind healthy.