It’s a little-known fact that Sept. 22 is National Centenarian Day. Little known, because not very many people get to celebrate it. To be a member of the club, you must be 100 years old — or older. And when you reach such milestones, they’re worth celebrating.
Vi at La Jolla Village — a senior living community at 4171 Las Palmas Square in the UTC area — held its annual Centenarian Day celebration to honor those members who can boast of being at least a century old.
According to community relations manager Theresa Latosh: “This is a very special event. Some years we have two or three centenarians, and some years we’re lucky enough to have as many as six.” And that’s the case this year with six centenarians still enjoying life and still sharing their wisdom and rich history.
At Vi, 500 residents live independently and another 120 are in various care levels. “It’s incumbent upon us to help people who live here live the best life they can, as long as they can,” Latosh told the Light. “So this event is a perfect example of what our mission is.”
The party began with music by Klassik Art Students. Then two of the six centenarians shared their thoughts on life.
Captain Georgia McKearly was in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps for 31 years, and was one of the first women to attend the Medical College of Virginia. “It was interesting and fulfilling work,” she recalled. “You felt that you were doing something, not only for people in general, but for the young men who were coming back from the wars. They sent them back as soon as possible so they could begin their rehabilitation.”
Two 4-year-old boys in the crowd were brought up to the front as Latosh asked: “What was it like when you were this age?”
McKearly related that her father was a railroad conductor with his own cupola-topped caboose that one could climb to see the entire train. For her birthday one year, her father took her friends up to the cupola. “That was one of the thrilling things that happened when I was that age.”
Of her childhood, Evelyn Murray shared: “My father was a traveling salesman, so he wasn’t home too much, and my mother worked. So I was nominated to be the mother of the family. I helped raise my sister, and I think I did a good job with her. But it was hard. I met my husband the first day of high school. As soon as I saw him, I said to myself, ‘that’s for me!’ I knew right away I wanted him.”
After the party, Dr. Bea Rose, 104, said she has fun with her age. “I call on the phone and they ask for my birth date, and when I tell them, there’s a clunk. And I say ‘Hello, are you still there?’ and the person says, ‘I’m getting off the floor.’ ”
Rose said she was one of the few women of her day who went to university and then to medical school. She met her husband, a cardiologist, just after graduating.
“We happened to live through the most exciting time in the history of cardiology. My husband and I were instrumental in training ambulance attendants to be EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians). We wrote the protocols for them. As a matter of fact, that name came from me. I said, ‘We can’t call them ambulance attendants; nobody will respect them. They’re technicians, they’re emergency technicians.’ So my husband said, ‘Let’s put that down.’ We were working for the Department of Defense and they picked up on it and adopted the name.”
When asked the cliched question about the secret to a long life, Rose replied: “I have no secret. I just went on with my life, doing what I thought I should do, what I had to do. And all of a sudden, I’m an old lady.”
McKearly said her secret was simple: “Love what you do. That is the secret. If you love what you do in your life, you’ll be happy.”