La Jolla Centenarians: Leona Adler appreciates this San Diego town for its friendly, cosmopolitan air

Editor’s Note:

As part of

La Jolla Light’s

100th publishing anniversary this year, we are featuring interviews with fellow centenarians throughout 2013. If you know a La Jollan who is 100 years old, please e-mail

or call

(858) 875-5950


By Ashley Mackin

The things that 101-year-old Leona Adler loves about living in La Jolla seem to be the reminders of things she loves from her career, interests and life experiences, as well as the “better” traits people had in yesteryears.

She and her husband, now deceased, moved here in 1975.

The retired biology teacher said she loves living near universities and research centers, and appreciates the cultural events in town because exploring other cultures was a big part of her life. She also said the friendliness of La Jolla is a reminder of the sense of togetherness she experienced in younger days.

“We have wonderful research going on here,” she said. “Most people don’t realize it, but we are one of the (most) important research centers in the country. It’s funny they don’t connect San Diego with it, but we have Qualcomm, we have biological research, we have the Salk Institute.”

Because jobs were limited during the Great Depression, Adler said she opted to focus on school, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts, completing a pre-med major. “But I decided I wouldn’t be a good doctor. ... So I got my master’s at Teacher’s College (in 1936) and taught biology first,” she said.

The beginning of her career also marked the beginning of her marriage. She met her husband Norman in her senior year of high school, and kept in touch with him through college. The two wed after they graduated.

She continued to teach at various schools, taking a brief break to raise her children, John and Louise. When she resumed her teaching career, she taught biology and sex education until 1972.

She said it was through her sex education classes that Adler witnessed the change in sexual attitudes and relationships. “There was a rather sudden change between 1968 and 1969 ... the change was more openness. In the movies, there was a sudden jump at that time (that) you could feel.”

However, she said there is less of that openness now, possibly due to the advent of the Internet. “For me, the Internet is not the same thing as eye-to-eye contact and feeling each other’s psyche or whatever, face to face,” she said. “It’s a different thing.”

As opposed to turning to the Internet to keep her mind sharp, Adler said she reads and explores cultural events. She likes to read about politics and attend concerts at her Pacific Regents home, and particularly enjoys the opera, symphony and live theater.

Her appreciation for different cultures comes from traveling the world and seeing so many of them. Through her husband’s many jobs — including lawyer, executive for Columbia Records and agent in the antitrust division of the U.S. government — the Alders traveled to London, Japan, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean, Hawaii and others.

Her knowledge of the world helped give her perspective on the United States, and how it is has changed since she was a child.

“In the earlier part of the 20th century, there was a feeling of togetherness even though we had immigration from all over. I feel that maybe the biggest change is we’re flying apart as a country. The country is not pulling together the way it did in my day,” she said.

Noting that she lived through six wars, she added, “All the men in the family, all of our male friends, they were in the army. Now it’s other people’s sons and other people’s brothers. You don’t even know who is in the army now.”

However, the welcoming attitude of La Jollans reminds her of the closeness she fondly remembers. When she walks down the street, she talks to people, and people say hello and make eye contact.

“What I like about it (here) is the people, they are so friendly,” she said.

Leona Adler’s Guide to Reaching 100

■ It’s a matter of luck and good medical care. Advances in medical technology have increased longevity for everyone.

■ A sturdy, energetic family provides the genes and habits for living an active life.

■ Have stimulating intellectual and cultural pursuits, and continue with creativity through retirement years.

■ Have warm and enduring social contacts and continue with friends and relatives through retirement.

■ Use your physical abilities to do as much you can for yourself. I keep moving. Naturally after many falls, my physical ability is limited, but I am pretty determined to keep going.

■ Pace yourself. I lie down when I am tired or when my joints ache.

■ Don’t over plan. I know I can’t do everything in one day.

■ As we age, we have to adapt to change ... a cane or a walker or whatever.

■ Drink a glass of sherry about 3 p.m. and usually sip wine with dinner.

■ Quality of life is just as important as the number of years. I enjoy life.

■ I still think in terms of past, present and future.

■ Don’t sweat the small stuff.