Yvette Chretien was born in October 1919 in Central Falls, Rhode Island, just as the Spanish Flu pandemic was loosening its grip on the world. There were no vaccines back then. Yvette died last Saturday in Pawtucket as a vaccine is being readied that could bring an end to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

One life, spanning two once-in-a-lifetime events with so much history in between. Yvette was 101 years old when she died peacefully in her sleep from natural causes.

A self-centered, youth-oriented society, often preoccupied with busyness or perhaps fear of its mortality, is likely to view the aged as simply those who have outlived their time, with nothing more to offer. In doing so, we tragically discard a wealth of knowledge, experience, and history.

After witnessing the stock market crash and living through both Prohibition and the Great Depression, Yvette Chretien graduated from high school in 1937. In 1947, with World War II now over, Yvette married her love, professional boxer Eddie Coderre. They loved ballroom dancing and each other. The Coderres had five children.

Like many of her generation, Yvette was devoted to God and country, but most of all to her family. She would become the matriarch of a clan that included 16 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, and one great, great-grandchild. Through it all, she watched a world change around her. From Pearl Harbor to Pork Chop Hill to Saigon to 9/11, history unfolded before her eyes.

The technological advances alone must have seemed incredible to Yvette. The advent of computers, smartphones, and space travel, not to mention medical advancements in vaccines, cancer treatment, and organ replacements.

It is true that most old-timers are unfamiliar with Facebook and FaceTime and Twitter but we shouldn't cast them aside as relics of a bygone era. Our aged loved ones are a resource chock full of knowledge just waiting to be tapped, and they are only too eager to share what they've experienced with us. Let's slow down long enough to listen to what they have to say.

So long, Yvette. You were apart of the greatest generation this nation has ever known. You will be missed.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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