Kathleen Briggs of La Jolla Shores turns 100 on Cinco de Mayo, May 5

By Dave Schwab

Spry with a twinkle in her eye, Kathleen Briggs of La Lolla Shores shared a few yarns about her life experiences, recently, as she eyed her upcoming 100th birthday: Saturday, May 5.

A La Jolla resident since 1951, Briggs’ father was a Naval officer who participated in both the Spanish-American War and World War I. She claims she was conceived on the third floor of the Hotel Del Coronado, which she noted gave special rates to Naval officers at the time for occupying the hotel’s third floor.

“I was supposed to be born on the 15th of April but my mother miscalculated,” she said, from her living room.

Some of her fondest memories are of growing up on the Naval base in Bremerton, Wash.

“The best time of my life was living up in Bremerton because we were in the Navy yard for four years and the ship would come in every month and a half with 25 ensigns graduated out of the Naval Academy, so there were men all over the place,” she said. “I had a great time. I got engaged six times and never married. I think I had too much Navy: I could see what the future would be.”

Though as a Navy brat, Briggs moved often and lived all over, including China for two years in the 1920s. She said she grew up with the McCain family, having known the father and grandfather of John McCain who ran for president in 2008.

Briggs said her father used to sail frequently when she was young to South America, and would bring back an exotic animal each time, turning their home into a miniature zoo. Once she said the family inquired with a friend about moving from Coronado into an apartment elsewhere. They asked a friend to find a place that  would accept a kinkajou, two monkees, two parrots and an ocelot. The answer back was, “Stay in Coronado.”

You’ll always get it straight from Briggs, who’s not tame about telling you what it was like — or how it is.

“It was deader than a doornail in 1951, everything folded up at 5 p.m.,” she said of La Jolla in those days. “The only thing open was the Cove Theater, which is sorely missed now. It was very dead until the university came here.”

And her impressions of La Jolla now?

“I think they’re trying to make Prospect into another Rodeo Drive or something,” she said.

Asked about the secret to her longevity, Briggs quipped, “Clean living,” but was quick to recant, adding, “I used to play a lot of golf, but I never had a lot of stamina.”

Briggs was an accomplished painter in her life creating still lifes and landscapes, many of which adorn her home. Briggs’ friends are planning a big party for her on her centennial birthday.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger,” she said. “I don’t know how they’re going to squeeze everybody in. It’s a Saturday, too. We’re going to have Chinese food. I think people are going to be sitting on the floors.”

The philosophy that’s helped Briggs get through 100 years of living is pretty simple and straightforward, just like her.

“I think you should be tolerant and charitable and open-minded about things and it will come back to you,” she said.

The 100 Club

The United States has the greatest number of centenarians in the world with an estimated 70,490 as of Sept. 1, 2010. Recent estimates show roughly 450,000 centenarians worldwide. Source: Wikipedia

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