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For the Love of Lobstering Pt.2

Virginia Oliver has been lobstering for over 95 years. As Maine’s oldest active lobsterman, Oliver has gained a good deal of attention recently, particularly at her 103rd birthday celebration in June. Her comment then: “What’s all the fuss about?”

Oliver lives in Rockland next door to the house where she was born and later her four children were born. Her father was a lobster dealer and owned a general store on The Neck, linked at low tide to larger Andrews Island in the Muscle Ridge chain off South Thomaston. Her father did many things, including running herring weirs using materials he made on the island. Oliver helped her father at the weirs, started lobstering with her older brother, and began driving her first boat at the age of eight. With no school nearby, Oliver moved back to the mainland to begin grade school, living with her older sister, aunts, and grandfather in their Rockland house.

Virginia Oliver starts her season again. Photo courtesy ABC News.

Oliver married her husband Bill at 17, a year after her mother died. Bill Oliver was a lobsterman, who grew up on the same street in Rockland. As the family grew, Oliver worked at local land-based jobs. She worked nights in a sardine factory, then took a job at the local printing plant. She worked there for nearly 19 long years before she decided she had had enough. One morning she quit, and that evening told Bill she wanted to go lobstering with him. The next day, she did.

After Bill passed away in 2006, Oliver began sterning with her son Max aboard her late husband’s boat Virginia. The two fish from the Spruce Head Fishermen’s Co-op, heading out about three days each week through September. Her son pulls the traps (they each have their own, plus a tank with a partition to keep their hauls separated). His mother prepares bait and bands and measures the lobsters.

Oliver is out on the water for her 95th year and shows no signs of stopping. “You have to keep moving,” she said in a recent Washington Post interview. “I intend to do this until I die.”

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