Centenarian celebrates 105 years

‘Many of us ... just hope to be like Connie’

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 8, 2021

 Connie Frock, of St. Clair Shores, turns 105 on Sept. 13.

Connie Frock, of St. Clair Shores, turns 105 on Sept. 13.

Photo provided by Carole Krieger

 Connie and Ivan Frock enjoyed ballroom and square dancing.

Connie and Ivan Frock enjoyed ballroom and square dancing.

Photo provided by Carole Krieger

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — It happened more than 80 years ago, but Connie Frock remembers how her courtship with her husband began like it was yesterday.

“When I was working in the office, a girl in front of me told me one weekend ... ‘I’m going up to Anchor Bay. My parents are up there, and we’d like to take you along for a weekend. We have a man who is going with my fiancé’ — she was engaged — ‘and it would be nice for him to have a partner,” Frock recalled.

She said she heard later that her friends had joked with the man about her appearance, giving him a wrong impression of what to expect.

“He said, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to get messed up with that.’ He changed his mind when I walked in the door. I think he was going to pass out!” Frock said.

The couple went dancing at the tavern and swimming the next morning. They went water-skiing together, and Frock said he held her while she was on the board, “which I didn’t mind at all.”

“We had a wonderful day on the water, and that night, we went dancing again.”

When it was time to go home, Ivan Frock asked Connie to join him. A night out dancing, with Connie decked out in a red suit that Ivan couldn’t stop complimenting, cemented the couple’s relationship. There was a catch, however: she worked days and he worked nights at the Dodge Main Plant.

“He couldn’t figure out how he could see me. He said, ‘I’m going to come over and take you to work,’” she said. “Then we went to a picnic. He made me feel so good and so warm.

“Finally, we had a picnic, and he announced that we were going to get married. That was the big highlight in my life because he was such a gentleman.”

Frock was 26 years old when she and Ivan wed in 1942. On Sept. 13, 2021, she will turn 105.

Born Constance Ellingham Sept. 13, 1916, in St. Albans, England, she immigrated with her family to Canada in 1921 and moved to Detroit in 1924, where her father worked for the Hiram Walker estate. Police officers directed street traffic from towers before the advent of traffic lights, and she remembers one particular officer who crossed her each day as she walked to school.

“He called her Little Red Riding Hood because she had a red cape,” said her daughter, Carole Krieger. “They’re an international family: she was born in England, her brother was born in Canada and her sister was born in Detroit.”

Frock grew up in the city, graduating from Southeastern High School in 1934. She attended business school and became a bookkeeper with Briggs Beautyware, which made sinks, tubs and toilets.

“We made Beautyware, and then the war came,” Frock said. “They canceled that and brought in the airplanes. I was in charge of the payroll. They kept us busy.

“Every once in a while, they would take a group to get away from the war business, and (we) went over there and did dancing, occasionally,” she added, referring to the Vanity Ballroom in Detroit. “That was my life’s business — I loved to dance.”

Frock said that’s what drew her to her husband.

“He is a big golfer and dancer. He was just perfect in dancing,” she said. “We got married, and Carole came along, and I’m telling you, he couldn’t be more happy having his daughter.”

Ivan Frock had one son, Roger Frock, from his previous marriage, and he and Connie went on to have their daughter, Carole, of St. Clair Shores. They were always on the go, she said.

“My husband loved to dance, and we went to square dancing and ballroom dancing, and we did a lot of traveling over to Europe and whatnot. We were with a travel group. We were busy all the time,” she said. “I was very active in exercise and dancing.”

She credits the fact that she’s celebrating 105 years to her active lifestyle. Genetics helped, too — her parents lived to their mid-90s, as did her aunts in England.

“Always exercising, I think that’s her secret, and working,” Krieger said, noting that her mother did water aerobics well into her 90s. “Dancing was a big part of their life.”

Frock quit working when she married, but later in life, she wanted to save up for some trips, so she began working in the menswear department of Sears on Gratiot Avenue. She worked at Jacobson’s, as well, and then J.C. Penney’s at Eastland, only quitting at age 85 when they closed the store. She was their oldest employee.

She lived independently in a St. Clair Shores condominium until 102, when she moved to assisted living at Lakeshore Senior Living.

Living to be a centenarian is nice, she said, except for the physical limitations that come with it. She still exercises, but now it’s with the help of a therapist.

“It’s fine, but my inner body, it’s like it can’t catch up with me,” she said. “Other than that, I can get along.”

She misses gardening and baking, as she loved making lemon curd tarts, but she still enjoys going out to dinner on a regular basis with Krieger and taking trips offered by Lakeshore Senior Living.

“I am so incredibly grateful to have her and (for her) to be able to function and actively participate,” Krieger said. “We just went on the Diamond Princess. She is very capable of doing so many things that 80-year-olds can’t do.

“She’s as independent as she can be; it’s just she had a bad fall and she had to come here. I just feel so fortunate.”

Frock is hard of hearing and uses a walker, but that doesn’t stop her and Krieger from going to the fish market in Marine City, eating out at Detroit’s Finest Coney Island (her favorite restaurant) and Gilbert’s Lodge, and attending Grosse Pointe United Methodist Church, where she used to help with the rummage sale and the memorial garden.

“Her grandchildren come from Texas and Chicago and Pennsylvania and Florida. (She) gets lots of visitors,” Krieger said.

She has two granddaughters from Krieger — Lindsay and Meredith — and three great-grandchildren — Liam, 10; Claire, 9; and Anais, 2. From Roger Frock, she has three grandchildren — Greg, Karen and Jimmy — and multiple great-grandchildren.

“She’s very, very involved in her church. (Frock is the) oldest parishioner; they treat her like gold,” Krieger said.

Lakeshore Senior Living Wellness Supervisor Rachel Smith said Frock is such a sweet lady and is always smiling.

“Connie is our oldest resident by a couple years, and she’s just remarkable. She is so classy all the time. Always dressed nice, always with a smile on her face every time,” Smith said. “I think many of us here, if not everyone, just hopes to be like Connie.”

Frock will celebrate her 105th birthday on the third floor of the senior living center, at a bar called “The View.”

“They’re catering a party for her, and then we’ll have a church celebration. Detroit’s Finest does a special dinner for her with cake,” Krieger said. “Every year, it gets more and more interesting for me to figure out what we do now. We’ve had big parties every year.”

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