This 101-year-old Maine woman is still lobstering, and she has no plans of retiring anytime soon

Lobstering is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, but there’s no stopping 101-year-old Virginia Oliver from doing it.

Virginia, better known to her friends by Ginny, was conceived on Claredon Street in Rockland in June 1920. Alvin Rackliff and Julia Buttomer, her parents, still live on the same street, but in a new house. She raised her four children there.


The centenarian used live alone. But Max, her 78 year-old son, now stays at her home. This arrangement makes it easier to get up in the morning for both of them.

Virginia wakes up long before dawn and drives with Max to Owls Head, where her late husband’s boat, aptly named “Virginia,” is docked.

She works in Penobscot Bay, lobstering 200 pots in the water three days per week, from May through November. While her sea legs aren’t as steady as they used to be, a rocking boat feels like home to her than anywhere else.

The mother and her son make a great pair. Max hauls the pots and his mother bands the lobsters.

The "Virginia" boat operated by Virginia Oliver

Virginia is right-handed but must use her left hand for work since she broke her wrist a few decades ago.

When she’s not busy with lobsters, she loads bait bags with pogeys or menhaden, which are small fish meant to lure the crustaceans in.

“They call me the Lobster Lady,” she said.

Virginia is home to the oldest lobster fisherman in the state, as well as the oldest lobster fisherman in the entire world.

Wayne Gray, a friend of the family, said that Virginia was injured by a crab several years ago and needed seven stitches. Despite this, she didn’t consider hanging up her lobster traps.

Virginia Oliver and her son Max lobstering

“The doctor admonished her, said ‘Why are you out there lobstering?’” Wayne said. “She said, ‘Because I want to’.”

Virginia was in some ways destined for this kind of life. Her father fished for lobsters, sardines, and other seafood to sell to a local fishery. At just 8 years old, she would go lobstering with her dad and her big brother, John, at a time when it was regarded as a man’s job.

“I’ve done it all my life, so I might as well keep doing it,” she said.

However, she is concerned about the health of the state’s lobster population, which she said faces heavy fishing pressure these days.

Just as her late husband had, all of Virginia’s four kids lobster.

Virginia Oliver on her boat

Virginia says “being the boss” is what she likes best about lobstering. She only goes out if she’s feeling it, and she loves the freedom that the water provides her and her family.

As for her long and healthy life, Max says the secret is his mother’s work ethic. On the other hand, Virginia says it’s all about being independent.

“You just have to keep going otherwise you would be in a wheelchair or something,” she said.

Virginia drives her white pickup truck down the street every day after she’s at sea.

“I usually bake beans on Saturday and (my kids) come for supper,” says Virginia, who is famous for the doughnuts, cakes, and brownies she bakes.

Virginia Oliver holding up her fishing license

She can bring home the lobsters that she traps each weekly. She likes to have them in a classic Maine lobster roll, grilled bun, little mayo, and “nothing else.”

When asked when she plans to retire from lobstering, Virginia said, “When I die.”

“Everybody gonna die sometime,” she said. “You not gonna live forever, so why let it bother you?”

Virginia recently renewed her fishing licence and is excited to lobster this summer along with Max. 

Click on the video below to learn more about Maine’s “Lobster Lady.”

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