Maria Ortiz Laird Celebrates a Century of Dancing, Working and Staying Active

January 9, 2015
The four Marias include Maria Ortiz Laird, Maria Jacobs and her daughter, Maria, and her mom, Maria DeFrancesco.

The four Marias include Maria Ortiz Laird, Maria Jacobs and her daughter, Maria, and her mom, Maria DeFrancesco.

submitted by Maria Jacobs

Born on December 11, 1914, in Uruguay, Maria Ortiz was one of 14 children, the daughter of a prominent farmer; she lost her mother at an early age.  In her 20s, Maria was swept of her feet and later married U.S. Merchant Marine Fredrick Laird who was stationed in Brazil at the time.  They married and together moved to the states in the early 1940s.  They settled in Lawrence, Mass., had five children together, and eventually landed for good in Salem in the mid-1960s.

Now, Maria is the first of four generations of Marias, the youngest being her 20-month-old great-granddaughter.  The matriarch of the family, she has 15 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

Maria was an avid dancer from an early age, attending dinner and dance clubs back in Uruguay, and then bringing her love of dance to the states and passing it along to many members of the family over the years.

Maria and Fredrick’s home in Salem was often a spot for gathering and backyard barbecues, and to this day, members of the community fondly recall Maria’s presence in the neighborhood.  She is a natural in social environments and lights up with the opportunity to be with others and share her many stories of her childhood and daily life.

When not hosting or raising a family, Maria has loved to garden, cook, and shop in town with family and friends.  She is still active, spending time with loved ones, tending to her home, and even making occasional trips to Foxwoods with family.  She’s held many jobs and, at times, worked virtually all hours that she wasn’t taking care of family.  She worked as a fabric spinner in the Malden Mills in Lawrence, Mass., cleaned the rectory at St. Matthews Parish in Windham, and, for years, cleaned at Interstate Gymnastics in Methuen, Mass., up until she was 95!

If you were to ask her “what is her secret to longevity?” she would likely not respond by saying that it’s all in God’s hands, but also say that keeping active in any way is so important even on a small scale.  Or in her words, “you gotta get up and keep movin’!”

This past Saturday, roughly 100 family and friends attended Nana’s 100th birthday party, a fitting celebration of a wonderful strong woman and her beautiful and inspiring life!