ROCKLAND, Mass. (AP) — Dorothy Hammer always has a story. That’s the first thing people say about her. She’s quick to agree. ‘‘I like to joke and talk to people,’’ she says. ‘‘I'm not a real smart aleck, but I just like people. And I love to do all sorts of things.’’
Some of the stories are about her life. Growing up in Boston and Whitman with parents who escaped the Armenian genocide. The wartime years, working at the Hingham Ammunition Depot, where she met her late husband, Clifford. Getting married at age 24 and raising three children. Teaching kindergarten at the Pussycat Private School. Working with children at Brockton Hospital. Teaching driving for 25 years, until she was 72.
At 89, she has hardly slowed down. Each morning, she dresses up, matching her clothes for colors, putting on earrings and jewelry and lipstick, and she plans her day.
‘‘I have to get a job,’’ she says. ‘‘I've always had a job.’’
What she really would like to do is teach other elderly people how to drive, ‘‘so they wouldn’t be afraid to go out to the grocery store.’’
She chuckles at the improbability.
Some of her liveliest tales are about her art.
Hammer began taking art lessons when she was 7. She was a bit of a tomboy, playing marbles with the boys, and her cobbler father ("a real happy guy") thought she was getting into too much mischief. He sent her for drawing lessons. The diversion worked and art became a lifetime hobby. Dozens of her paintings are on permanent display at the Piano Mill in Rockland Center.
Her calling card reads ‘‘Paintings by Dorothy Hammer: seascape, landscape, still life and portraits, oil, watercolor, pastel & mixed media.’’
‘‘I like to make stories with my pictures, you know,’’ she says. ‘‘I see something and I have to feel, ‘How did it happen? What is behind it?’ I attach myself to it.’’
We are standing in the main gallery at the Piano Mill. Kim Engel, a teacher and salesperson, calls Hammer ‘‘an extraordinary woman. Miss Dorothy has such a breadth of mediums and subjects.’’
Later, we stop by her home, where paintings fill her walls and dolls line her chairs and sofas.
‘‘I never had a doll as a child,’’ she explains.
On a hook by the entrance is a hat: ‘‘Senior Moment Survival Hat. Caution. Frequent senior moments.’’
Hammer, who'll turn 90 on July 26, isn’t about to rest on her laurels.
‘‘When my husband was alive, I was always doing things for him, for others,’’ she says. ‘‘He wouldn’t travel. I want to do things, go places. I've come to a point where I want to be me, myself and I.’’