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La Jolla centenarian Gini Kebeck Clark’s secret: ‘Do something you love every day’

La Jollan Virginia "Gini" Kebeck Clark turns 100 on Sept. 26.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla Centenarians is an occasional series in the Light. If you know a La Jollan who is or is about to be 100 years old, email robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.

La Jollan Virginia “Gini” Kebeck Clark turns 100 this week and plans to celebrate a lifetime of music and travel with those who know her best.

As it happens, her centennial birthday Sept. 26 comes four days after National Centenarian’s Day.

Born Virginia Quesenberry in Plymouth, Ill., Kebeck Clark remembers playing clarinet in the high school band for 50 cents every Saturday in the town square. She later graduated from a two-year business course and moved three blocks north of the White House in Washington, D.C.

There, she met Arthur Kebeck at a dance and married him four months later in Tacoma Park, Md., in 1942.

While Arthur was training as a Marine fighter pilot, they moved about 20 times in just over two years before finally settling in La Jolla on a friend’s suggestion after World War II, Kebeck Clark said.

They moved a few times within La Jolla and eventually were “the first to live in the Muirlands,” Kebeck Clark said, in a house on Mount Soledad where she lives to this day with her daughter Kim Debaca and Debaca’s partner, Mark Stanley.

Kebeck Clark’s son Chris Kebeck lives in Cambodia.

Arthur and Gini Kebeck pose with their son Chris in La Jolla in 1956.
(Courtesy)

Kebeck Clark worked at the county building her first few years in California, saving money while Arthur did tours in China.

In the 1960s, she used her business education to help her husband develop a skid-speed computer for the California Highway Patrol, assisting him with the administration, correspondence and advertising for the device.

Arthur died of a heart attack at age 48 in 1970, and Kebeck Clark began to explore travel. She met Norm Clark on a flight with friends to Europe. They married in 1973 and traveled extensively together until Norm’s death in 1979.

Norm Clark, left, and Gini Kebeck Clark, second from right, are pictured in 1975 with Kebeck Clark's children Chris and Kim.
(Courtesy)

Kebeck Clark, who plays grand piano daily, hasn’t let three bouts with cancer — breast and melanoma — keep her from getting pleasure from every day. “I enjoy playing; I make friends,” she said.

Debaca said she’s planned a birthday celebration in pieces for her mother, inviting “select friends” in small masked groups for cake over several days to wish the new centenarian well.

Kebeck Clark answered questions from the La Jolla Light, eager to share the wisdom she’s gleaned over the past 100 years. “I’m very private,” she said, “until now.”

Q. What’s the secret to your longevity?

A. “Do something you love every day.”

Q. What’s the most important invention or advancement in your lifetime?

A. “I love television. I’m a newshound.”

Q. What does your typical day look like?

A. After coffee and pancakes for breakfast, Kebeck Clark reads the daily newspaper cover to cover, keeping “well-informed about events.”

She then spends hours daily sending news clippings to friends worldwide, along with handwritten cards, stamps and stickers. “I have my office in the den, my happy place,” she said. “I love what I do there, keeping in touch with friends all over.”

After playing piano and eating dinner, Kebeck Clark watches movies with Debaca. “I like mafioso movies,” Kebeck Clark said. “I’m intrigued by them.”

Q. What’s your advice to a young person?

A. “Be true to yourself.”

Q. What’s your earliest memory?

A. “Running away! My grandparents had a cottage built across the way from my parents’ newly built brick home. I was running away from my dad, to my mother’s skirts; I’d done something he didn’t like. He was Southern, from Virginia — that’s where I got my name. He had that Southern twang: ‘Come here, you lil’ devil!’”

Q. What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?

A. “I’m very conservative … but I’ve had extensive travel. I’ve been all over the world — South America, Alaska, Europe, Asia, Central America …”

Q. How do you handle loss?

A. “It’s tough, but no matter how you’re living, you have to find something out of every day that gives you pleasure. Or somebody that through you has pleasure.”

Q. Do you have any regrets?

A. “Everybody has regrets. But you don’t go back. That’s the secret; you don’t go back if you want to be happy.”

Q. What’s been the best decade for you?

A. The 1970s, as they were “packed with travel with Norm.”

Q. What’s the best part of living in La Jolla?

A. Motioning at the ocean view from her yard, “What’s not to like?” ◆