Margaret Cunningham isn't sentimental or striving. She doesn't fret about the future or ruminate on the past. What she does do is keep going. Barring an accident or act of God, she will turn 100 on April 21.

The late-nonagenarian fell earlier this year, prompting her daughter, Dorothy Black, to return to Maine from her summer home in Florida. By spring, Cunningham was getting around the house with a cane. The week before her birthday, she went clothes shopping and renewed her driver's license.

"I call her my 100-year-old mother, going on 80," Black said.

Cunningham was born Margaret Beal in 1918. From her birthplace in Swanville, she moved around Waldo County, first with her parents and later as a young school teacher. As a girl during the Great Depression, she recalled her father having trouble finding jobs, but said the times weren't much different than others in rural Waldo County. The family had a big garden, a cow for milk, a calf for meat, and a sheep for wool that her grandmother spun. Her mother made the children's clothes.

"The only thing difficult was shoes, because you had to buy those," she said. More often she had to patch the soles with cardboard.

Apart from 30 winters spent on the Atlantic Coast of Florida with her late husband, a tour of the U.S. when they retired, and several cruises in her later years, the only significant time she spent outside Waldo County was a year in southern Maine at the college then called Gorham Normal School.

That fall, 1938, she was headed back when a local superintendent of schools tapped her to teach in East Thorndike. She took the job and earned $15 a week, of which $10 went to room and board. The one-room, K-8 school was a one-woman show.

"I built my own fire and swept my own floor," Cunningham said.

She shared her recollections from a recliner in the tidy Belfast home where she has lived since 1979. Black sat on a sofa across from her, occasionally getting up to take framed photos of relatives down from a high shelf. These carried a thin layer of dust, but otherwise the place was meticulously in order.

Outside the weather was seasonally iffy. Cunningham hoped it would clear up so she could cut the dead canes from her raspberry bushes. At the next long stretch of good weather, she plans to repaint the front porch.

Cunningham's mother lived to be 99, so she chalked up some of her longevity to good genes. The rest she attributes to keeping busy.

"I get up in the morning and eat my breakfast and go to work," she said. "I don't do much sitting around."

There's also a cocktail in the afternoon — for the past two or three years a creme de menthe and brandy, no ice. A Stinger, neat. Cunningham sips on it.

"Who lugged the water?" Black asked, bringing the conversation back to the 1930s.

"I did," Cunningham said. "Who do you think?"

Hand washing wasn't encouraged at the school since it would have meant hauling more water. Once in a while, she invited the students to bring in a potato and cook it on the top of the wood stove. Schools had three weeks off in March for mud season because the roads were impassable.

She taught in another one-room schoolhouse in Swanville, a place she affectionately called "Head of the Pond," with Swan Lake being the pond. Around that time, she met her husband Devereux Cunningham. They married in 1940.

Her parents owned land in Swanville that had been bisected by the construction of Route 141, and they gave the couple the smaller piece to build a home.

They had five children, including one who died at 18 months. The other four — two daughters and two sons — are still living. All of them are now in their 70s. Two still live in Waldo County. A son and daughter, now on the West Coast, are coming back to Maine for Cunningham's 100th birthday celebration.

Cunningham taught grades 3, 4 and 5 in Northport at a primary school located on the site of town's current K-8, Edna Drinkwater School. Drinkwater had been Cunningham's eighth-grade teacher at the Poors Mill School. They would later teach under the same roof at Governor Anderson School in Belfast.

In Belfast, classes were larger, and as time passed students became gradually more assertive. Laying hands on a student wasn't yet frowned upon, and though Cunningham didn't recall being the kind of teacher who rapped knuckles with a ruler, she once moved the desk of a hyperactive boy to a wall where he couldn't launch himself out of his chair without hitting his head on the underside of a shelf.

"I had 36 first-graders," she said. "I didn't have time to keep him in his seat."

Devereux worked at local lumber yards and gravel pits. He worked as a driver. When the Waldo-Hancock bridge opened in 1931, he was the first civilian to cross, in a truck bearing wood pulp for the mill. In the 1940s he worked in Searsport loading ammunition for the war effort in Europe and hauled box boards from Patten to Medway to be made into coffins. One of their sons later would go to Vietnam, and Cunningham recalled putting him on the train as one of the hardest times in her life.

When Devereux died in 2006, they had been married 66 years.

Cunningham kept going. Like many women of her generation, she had become accomplished at practical skills of the home — baking, knitting, making soap. For entertainment, she reads novels and historical biographies and watches a slate of television shows that haven't filmed new episodes in decades.

She took several cruises but wasn't impressed. In particular, a trip to Hawaii in her retirement was a letdown, she recalled, because the flowers were the same as in Florida. There was a volcano, which the tour guides seemed to think was a big deal, but having been in Portland, Ore., when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, she felt she had already seen a volcano.

Did she ever want to be like someone famous when she grew up?

"Nope," she said. "Never thought much about it. We just lived."

Asked if she thought much about dying, Cunningham said she doesn't.

"You just keep on going through life," she said.

The City Council was to formally recognize Cunningham — barring an accident or act of God — on April 17, after this paper went to press.