The year was 1913.
Princeton professor Woodrow Wilson was sworn in as the 28th President. Pancho Villa started a revolution in Mexico. Women’s Suffrage went on the march in Washington. And Carlotta Niles started her own parade of remarkable accomplishments with her birth in New York City.
On May 27, Memorial Day, the longtime resident of Shrewsbury celebrated her 100th birthday at a party thrown by her granddaughters and her friends in the new Jersey Bridge Club, West Long Branch.
The celebration began at 11:30 a.m. and was followed an hour later by — what else? — a bridge game, one of Niles’ favorite pursuits.
Still vibrant and essential, the daughter of silent film star June Elvidge is one of the most remarkable women ever to live in New Jersey. When she walks ramrod straight into a room — in three-inch heels, no less — she immediately commands attention.
Impeccably dressed and coiffed, she goes about her life with the verve of a person 40 years her junior. She goes to the gym three times a week, cooks for relatives and plays bridge with a fierce determination that belies her warm smile and gentle demeanor.
Besides her family, Niles’s other passions have included hot air ballooning in various countries across the globe, tennis, which she played into her mid-90s, and traveling. She trekked to Mongolia a few years ago “because I’ve never seen the Gobi Desert” and to Argentina recently “to properly learn the Tango.”
She still travels to New York to view new museum shows, plays and musicals — but frowns at some of today’s stage productions. “Some of it I simply don’t understand,” she told a friend. But give her a musical with a Gershwin beat and she is there. “‘Nice Work If You Can Get it’ was just darling,” says Niles.
To put her life in some sort of perspective, consider that she predates both World Wars and was born the year the Lincoln Highway was dedicated and the Ford assembly line began cranking out cars.
Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were also born the same year as Niles, as well as Mel Allen, Woody Hayes, Rosa Parks, John Garfield, Vince Lombardi, Jimmy Hoffa, Oleg Cassini, Tyrone Power, Dorothy Kilgallen, Menachem Begin, Red Skelton, Jesse Owens, Burt Lancaster, Vivien Leigh, Hedy Lamarr and Benjamin Britten.
But Carlotta Niles has trumped them all.
A FEW MORE FACTS ABOUT CAROLTTA:
- She is the daughter of silent film star June Elvidge and Roy Ramsey.
- Her father died when she was eight months old and she was raised by her maternal grandmother in Matawan while her mother continued her film
- Her grandfather, Frank Elvidge, was wounded during the Battle of Gettysburg.
- Her uncle, naval aviator Admiral Dewitt Clinton Ramsey, commanded the aircraft carrier Saratoga during WWII and later commanded the Pacific Fleet.
- Carlotta spent her youth in Matawan, moved to Hollywood with her mother in 1923 at the apex of the Silent Film Era. She returned to New Jersey to graduate from Long Branch High School in 1930.
- She attended Boston University for 1 year, fell in love with Jonathan Niles, a cub reporter for a local newspaper and later the Wall Street Journal, and married in September of 1931.
- They built the house on Sycamore Ave, in Shrewsbury in 1935, where she still lives.
- Carlotta and Jonathan had three children, Carlotta (Carly) born in 1933 and Jonathan Jr. in 1935 and Diana born in 1947. She has six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
- She has been to every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
- Hot air ballooning was her passion for many years, and she's ballooned in Turkey, France, Austria and Kenya.