Melva Cadmus Radcliffe, University’s Oldest Alumna, Lived 111 Remarkable Years

Born on March 3, 1901, Radcliffe was William Paterson’s oldest alumnas as well as New Jersey’s oldest resident. She died August 31, 2012.
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Melva Cadmus Radcliffe

Melva Cadmus Radcliffe lived a vibrant life and touched the hearts and minds of thousands of students during her career as a teacher in Paterson, N.J.

Born on March 3, 1901, Radcliffe was William Paterson’s oldest alumna as well as New Jersey’s oldest resident. She died August 31, 2012 surrounded by family at her home, an assisted living facility in Wall Township, N.J. She was mentally sharp to the end, planning the details of her funeral including what she wanted to wear in her casket.

Radcliffe graduated from Paterson Normal School in 1919 at age seventeen at the top of her class. In those days, the school offered a two-year teacher preparation program and Radcliffe had skipped enough grades in grammar school to enter college at fifteen. She went on to earn her B.A. degree from Paterson State College in 1951.

At age sixty-nine, Radcliffe was married for the first time to a former beau she knew from her youth, James Radcliffe. James died six years later. She later married his brother, Hartley Radcliffe. He died in 1997 after an eleven-year marriage.

A teacher for forty-four years, Radcliffe taught mostly first and second grade at Public School No. 13 in Paterson. She was fondly remembered by many of her students, including many who sent her birthday cards and stayed in touch over the years.

Radcliffe was known for her cheery disposition, remarkable memory, and love of travel. “I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful life,” she once stated during an interview for WP Magazine.

At her family's request, donations to honor Radcliffe may be made to the William Paterson University Foundation. Online donations can be made by clicking on this link and identifying "Melva Cadmus Radcliffe" in the gift designation line.

09/12/12