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Centenarians' Archive - Page Two

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Dorothy Custer, 100  "Let Me Entertain You!"
“I just love the sound of applause,” says Dorothy Custer, who turned 100 in June, “and I have ever since I was five years old.  I was given the role of Tiny Tim in a school performance of “A Christmas Carol” because there wasn’t a young boy to play the part.  I had one line,” she recalls, “When I heard the applause – that was it; I’ve been performing in one way or another ever since.”  
     Over the years this Idaho native has had many roles including college student, school teacher, wife, mother, community organizer,

Dorothy Custer, 100, on "The Tonight Show"
Dorothy Custer at Universal Studios before her appearance on
"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in June, 2011. She had the
picture taken because she knew Jay Leno likes motorcycles!

volunteer and recently Pioneer of the Year. But entertainer is her longest running role and her passion. 
     “It’s just natural for me,” she says earnestly. “Entertaining others, spreading joy and laughter is what I love to do. I belong to a group called the Good Sam Traveling Club; we go all over performing at various functions – we’re in demand!”  
     Dorothy has developed 13 characters, as she calls them, including “Granny Clampett” from "The Beverly Hillbillies."  She writes skits and jokes, and makes costumes for each character.  She is known for her harmonica playing, which she’s been perfecting since the age of 12, as well as her quick wit and stand up comedic talent. 
     “I like to have fun.”  As she told Jay Leno on a recent appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," “No one has had as much fun as I have in my life!”

Click to watch Dorothy on "The Tonight Show"

At 101, Aviation Pioneer Keeps Going
Captain Joe (Jose) Grant, 101 - Pioneer aviator Jose Grant, can be found working 6 days a week at the jewelry store that bears his name in Stamford, CT.  He’s known for his unique “puzzle rings,” and has been in business since 1947.  He’s also a retired pilot for TWA and spent 2 years in Saudi Arabia helping to found their national airline after WWII.  He now flies with his son in their Cessna, lives alone and is still driving.  His office and store are filled with memorabilia, awards and honors from his flying days. 

Captain Joe (Jose) Grant, 101
Photo courtesy of Stan Piet, Archive Director, Glenn L. Martin Museum

He recently held a book signing at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for his book about his time in Saudi Arabia. 

Astrid Thoenig, 100, Prototype of Today’s Modern Woman

Astrid Thoenig
Photo: Alexandra Pais,
New Jersey Local News Service

Dedicated career woman, wife, mother, community volunteer, single working Mom, entrepreneur, remarriage, third career, caring daughter to her Mother and involved Grandmother.  Sound familiar? Sure. Except that Astrid has pulled it all off successfully to age 100 – and still going strong – and still working a 40 hour week! 
       “I am blessed,” she says.  She’s also immensely talented and determined and focused.  “I don’t feel old and I don’t think old,” she’s quick to add.  And listening to her on the phone or watching her at work, she would easily be mistaken for someone 40 years younger than her chronological age.  She doesn’t have any tricks or secrets to her success – “this is just the way I am and always have been.”
       Born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, on September 24, 1909, to Swedish immigrant parents, Astrid was the middle child of three girls.  During the 1918 Flu Pandemic – that killed 50 million worldwide, as she recalls – Astrid lost her father and her older sister, just hours apart.
       “My mother and younger sister were both stricken, but survived.  My younger sister lost hearing in one ear as a result.  I was never sick – I didn’t get it at all.  My mother just had to carry on; she had two young daughters to care for.  When she remarried, we were adopted and so we had a father – I always called my stepfather my dad.  He was good to us and we grew up in a normal, loving family.  My mother was a very strong woman. I give her a lot of credit for how my life has turned out.  When we were in our teens we all went to Sweden to meet our cousins and other family.  We had a terrific time.  My dad was American and didn’t understand the language, but he was a good sport and my mother translated.  We girls picked it up very fast. 

Click to continue reading about Astrid's fascinating life.

Ruth Proskauer Smith, 102
Ruth Proskauer Smith, 102 – Native New Yorker Ruth Smith retains a keen interest in the law and those who make the law, especially the U.S. Supreme Court.  Ruth comes by her interest in the law naturally.  Her father, Joseph M. Proskauer, was a prominent New York lawyer and a founder of the distinguished law firm that still contains his name. Her father was a confidant of Governor Alfred E. Smith, a candidate for the presidency in 1928. 
      Ruth regularly leads a self study group of retirees in New York who are interested in the makings of the laws of the land.  To her two children’s dismay, she maintains her active lifestyle in New York using the bus and subway to get around.  She has lived in her apartment at the historic Dakota since the early 1960s and relishes her independence. 


Ruth Proskauer Smith Dead: Abortion Activist, NARAL Co-Founder Dies

NEW YORK — Ruth Proskauer Smith, a reproductive rights pioneer, has died at the age of 102. In 1969, Smith helped form the first steering committee of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. In recent years, Smith remained involved with NARAL (NAY'-rahl) Pro-Choice New York.
      Her father, Joseph M. Proskauer, served on the New York State Supreme Court and was an adviser to Gov. Alfred E. Smith. Her mother, the former Alice Naumburg, helped found the Euthanasia Society of America, a right-to-die group. Even after her 102nd birthday, Smith led a regular seminar at a program for retired professionals.
     Her son, Anthony Smith, says she died Friday at her Manhattan home.

Information from: The New York Times, Huffington Post (1-27-10)

Weatherford attorney Jack Borden honored as America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker

WEATHERFORD — On Wednesday (August 5th), Jack Borden, of Weatherford, will celebrate his 101st birthday.
      But that’s not the only ceremony on his schedule for the day. He will also be recognized by Experience Works as America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker for 2009 at a 1 p.m. press conference at The Alkek Fine Arts Theater on the campus of Weatherford College.
      Following his recognition by Experience Works, Borden’s birthday party is planned at the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse clubhouse.
      The public is invited.

Jack Borden, 101, America's Outstanding Oldest Worker 2009
DEMOCRAT FILE PHOTO Jack Borden, the oldest practicing attorney in Texas, will be recognized Wednesday
as America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker. He is shown here in a 2008 photo working at the law office he shares with his partner and nephew, John Westhoff.

Story and photo:

      “No gifts please,” Borden said. “The ladies can bring me hugs and I’ll have someone here to shake the men’s hands.”
      Borden, who traveled to Washington, D.C. in September 2008 to accept accolades as Texas’ Outstanding Older Worker of the Year, credits a positive outlook on his longevity and his desire to continue working.
      “It’s a good attitude,” he told the Democrat then. “If you have drive, determination and do the best you can to serve your customers and employer, nothing can stop you.”
      An attorney since 1935, Borden still works 40 hours a week in an office he shares with his nephew, John Westhoff — specializing in real estate and probate work. Borden is the oldest member of the State Bar of Texas and is also the nation’s oldest living former FBI agent.
      “I’ve been licensed for more than 70 years,” he said in a 2008 interview. “I thank God every day that I still have my mind so I can still help people by practicing law.”
      Always active in the community, Mr. Borden served as Mayor of Weatherford from 1960 to 1964, and was selected as Outstanding Citizen of Weatherford in 2005.
      “I think one of the reasons I’ve lived so long is that I love life,” he said. “That’s really the important thing, isn’t it?”
       Experience Works is the nation’s largest nonprofit training and employment organization for older workers.
       Previous America’s Oldest Workers include a 100-year-old journalist, a 101-year-old engineer, a 100-year-old business owner, a 103-year-old real estate developer, a 102-year-old professor, a 100-year-old architect and a 104-year-old entrepreneur.

World's Oldest Man Parties On 113th Birthday
The world's oldest man has celebrated his 113th birthday - revealing he takes one aspirin a day to stay healthy.
Sky News -
September 22, 2009
     Walter Breuning celebrated his milestone with a party at his home in the Rainbow Retirement Community in Great Falls, Montana. He told those gathered: "Remember that life's length is not measured by its hours and days, but by that which we have done therein."
     A useless life is short if it lasts a century.
     "There are greater and better things in us all, if we would find them out. There will always be in this world - wrongs. No wrong is really successful.

     "The day will come when light and truth and the just and the good shall be victorious and wrong as evil will be no more forever."
     The 113-year-old, considered to be the world's oldest man, attributes his long life to eating well and keeping physically and mentally active. He also says he takes one aspirin a day.
     Mr. Breuning is in such good shape that he still strolls the halls of the retirement home, wearing a suit and tie, and walks the ramps to his second-floor apartment.
     He was born on September 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota.
     In 1912, he became a railway worker, which led him to Montana in 1918. He stayed in the job until retiring in 1963. Mr. Breuning has outlived all of his family. He lost his wife in 1957 after 35 years of marriage - they did not have any children.

Video: CBS News, originally aired April 24, 2009

The Associated Press, July 20, 2009:

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Walter Breuning learned to read by kerosene lantern, remembers his grandfather telling him about fighting in the Civil War, and cast his first presidential ballot for Woodrow Wilson.
       The 112-year-old resident of Great Falls, Mont., apparently became the world's oldest man when 113-year-old Henry Allingham of England died Saturday. Breuning was born Sept. 21, 1896.
       Now living at the Rainbow Retirement Home, Breuning takes one aspirin and eats two meals a day. He strolls the halls wearing a suit and tie and still walks the ramps to his second-floor apartment. Breuning said he's more grateful for his health than he is for a world title.
       "If you're in good health, you've got everything there is," he told the Great Falls Tribune. Longevity doesn't run in Breuning's family. He said his father, a civil engineer, died at 50, and his mother, a housewife, at 46. Two brothers and two sisters died in their 70s, he said. Breuning credits his longevity to keeping busy and practicing moderation.
       His advice for living to a ripe old age? Stay active in body and mind, don't eat too much and be good to people. The Guinness world records Web site said Breuning now appears to be the world's oldest man and that it will make a formal announcement as soon as the record has been verified.

Walter Breuning, 110

Pictured above: Walter, at 110, throws the first pitch during the Great Falls White Sox Pioneer League season
opener against the Billings Mustangs
in June, 2007.

Vicente Osorio, a naturalized citizen at age 100

On April 4th, 2008, Manuel Vicente Osorio Rios, 100 years old, posed as a proud American citizen, becoming the first Arizonian and the 11th in the nation to be naturalized at 100 years old, the day before his 101st birthday. He recalled the special day as one of the proudest moments in his life; it was his life-long dream to become an American citizen.

Click to read more about this
remarkable centenarian.

"Elsa's Own Blue Zone" book cover
"Elsa's Own Blue Zone"
Book Cover

Elsa Hoffmann, our celebrity centenarian,
is the subject of a new book!

       In the new book, “Elsa’s Own Blue Zone — America’s Centenarian Sweetheart’s Insights for Positive Aging and Living,” author Sharon Textor-Black shares with readers the philosophies she learned from her grandmother Elsa Brehm Hoffmann, a woman who became a national celebrity at 100. At 101, Elsa still drives, does her own banking, and is out and about daily.
       Hoffmann, a stunning, strong and active centenarian who defies the stereotypes of age, was interviewed by Barbara Walters during the blockbuster April 2008 longevity special “How to Live to be 150 … Can You Do It?” Hoffmann was featured as one of the most active, multi-faceted American seniors, supported by two years of research by the network and the National Centenarian Awareness Project. Hoffmann credits her healthful habits and optimistic life philosophies for her happiness and accomplishments.

       In fact, Dr. Michael Brickey, award winning author and a psychologist, describes Elsa, saying: “You cannot find a better role model of a vital, life embracing centenarian.”
       “’Elsa’s Own Blue Zone’ is about Elsa and her long successful life in modern America, citing real life examples to help you do the same despite adversities we all face.” says Textor-Black.  She adds, “Baby Boomers and Seniors alike will be inspired and motivated by Elsa’s insights to care for mind, soul, body and loved ones, engaging in life full force.”  Textor-Black specifies: “History, photos, biography, research, humor, and most importantly, Elsa’s wisdom and life experiences - from her hyperbaric chamber treatment to running businesses to leading a parade; it’s all in there!”

Click to read more about Elsa and the
Barbara Walters TV special

Photos from release party luncheon
and book signing at Deerfield Country Club.
Click "Play" to begin, place cursor on photo for caption.

For more information about "Elsa's Own Blue Zone"


“Unsung Hero” – WWI Vet, Andrew E. Rasch

The predominant themes to Andy Rasch’s long life are his service to his country, concern for others and his desire for independence. At age 107, he remarkably continues to maintain all three. 
       Andy and his sister were orphaned before the age of 5 and placed in an orphanage in the Midwest where they were abused and neglected, “horribly,” Andy recalls.  The memories of those years and of his mother’s tragic death in a train accident bring tears to his eyes.  At the age of 16, Andy ran away, promising his sister he would return for her as soon as he could.  Andy joined the Navy and  has  the  documentation 

Andy Rasch, 107, with his service memorabilia.
Andy Rasch, 107, with medals, ribbons and other
memorabilia from his service years.

to prove it.  He served aboard the USS Oklahoma battleship during WWI, and he has an array of ribbons for bravery and a flag from that era.
       “They didn’t give medals – they gave ribbons," he recalls.  He points out the heavy fabric of the flag and the predominant white stitching at the edges: “They don’t sew flags with this type of stitching anymore,” he explains. Andy’s story about his WWI service was broadcast by a local TV station in 2006. The station verified his service with the Veterans Administration. Andy continues, talking in more detail about how he went into a burning section of the ship and rescued four men: “I kept going back in and pulling them out,” he says, “there was fire all around.” 

USS Oklahoma
USS Oklahoma

       After the war ended, Andy kept his promise to his sister. “She was outside in the yard and I motioned to her to come to the wrought iron fence.  I told her, ‘Come with me, Sister, we’ll be all right.’  She was so thin that she managed to squeeze through the bars of the fence.”  They remained very close even after she married at the age of 21. He keeps a photo of her nearby his favorite chair in the living room of the small apartment where he lives alone. 
       “You’ll be surprised when you see me,” Andy tells me  on  the  phone.  “I’m not a ‘little old man.'"   In  fact,

Andy is about 6 feet tall and weighs around 200 pounds he says.  He and a “lady friend,” who lives nearby and is in her 90s, enjoy going out for breakfast at the local IHOP and sometimes she cooks for him.  Other times, friends take him out for meals.  “I’m not much of a cook – never have been – but I can manage,” he assures me.  “I grew four inches and put on my natural weight, once I got out of that place [the orphanage] – they were starving us.  Even the Navy food tasted good to me,” he says ruefully.  “Other guys used to complain; I was grateful.” 
       Andy also served in WWII as an Army Reservist.  Throughout his life he has been involved in organizations helping children, and he continues to do so.  “His philanthropy is impressive,” friend Iness confirms.  “He really cares about the welfare of children who need assistance, no matter what their circumstances.”  The high rate of homeless children is one of his many concerns, and he donates to local organizations to try and make a difference.  “If you can make a difference in one child’s life, then you’ve accomplished something,” Andy believes. “When we grew up (referring to his sister), there wasn’t anyone to help us – we had to make it on our own.  I’m glad to see people caring about kids today.” 
       Over the years, Andy has collected newspaper articles of fellow WWI veterans, including obituaries.  “I used to keep in touch with a couple of guys in Wisconsin,” he says, “but they are gone now.”  He also has a recent article about Frank Buckles, 108, shown at the White House with President George W. Bush. [Mr. Buckles is recognized as the last surviving WWI veteran.]  “He may be the oldest WWI Vet,” Andy remarks, “but he’s not the last!”  Does he mind being left out?  “Not really. I know who I am and what I’ve done in my life,” he says philosophically.  “Except that he gets to be buried in Arlington [National] Cemetery.”

Good Health and Aging
Bernardo LaPallo writes book about healthy aging 

If you were in his presence, visiting with him, hearing one of his lectures on health and nutrition, or joining him for a brisk mile or two walk, you would think he’s a man of about 77. You would be off by 30 years.
       At 107, Bernardo LaPallo (pictured) is a vibrant, articulate, inspirational centenarian and the author of “Age Less/Live More: Achieving Health and Vitality at 107 and Beyond.”
       In this slim volume, he passes on the wisdom he learned from his father, a physician, who set him on his course in life

Bernardo LaPallo, 107

that has lead to both longevity and a very high quality of good health. And while it’s true that both of his parents lived long, Bernardo cautions against complacency – “Good genes can only take you so far,” he says confidently. “You also have to take good care of your health; that’s your responsibility.”
       Born in Brazil, he grew up in New York City, has traveled widely, and lives independently with his wife of 50 years. He is working on his second book, which will be much larger, he explains, and will detail the nutrition plan he has followed from childhood, which obviously has served him well.

There'll Always Be a Story to Tell
Mildred Heath, 100-Year-Old Reporter

Mildred Heath, 100
Mildred Heath, 100

Mildred Heath sees no reason to tamper with life patterns that have served her well. So she continues to work as a reporter, is active in community groups and serves as writer of the annual Christmas letter to keep far-flung relatives informed about family developments.
        At 100 years old, Heath continues to cheerfully blast through life with distinctive verve.  She has, in recent years, made a handful of accommodations to the aging process: She no longer bakes her own bread —“I just don’t have the time”—and she has given up driving a car. Her preference? Whirring along the sidewalks on an electric scooter since breaking her hip six years ago.
        She wakes up at six every morning, then presses on to her 30-hour-a-week job at the weekly Overton Beacon Observer. There she calls sources to gather community news, serves as receptionist, files photographs and takes advertisements.

        “I’m needed. That’s why I’m working,” says Heath, who once published the little newspaper with her late husband and now works for her son-in-law, the publisher. Her granddaughter is the third member of the staff.
        Retirement is not an option for Heath, who always totes a notepad for when she encounters something newsworthy. “I’ll work as long as I’m able. I enjoy it. I grew up in the business.”
        Last week the woman who the Nebraska Press Association believes is the oldest working journalist in America was flown to Washington, D.C., to receive the 2008 America’s Oldest Worker Award from Experience Works, which provides employment assistance for older workers. 

Excerpt - Source: AARP Bulletin Today, Sharon L. Peters; Photo: The Omaha-World Herald

Waldo McBurney, 106, Releases Audio Book.

Waldo McBurney, 106
Waldo McBurney, 106

Four years ago, Waldo McBurney penned his autobiography. So, you’re thinking, many people write autobiographies. True. But the title of Waldo’s book clues you to its content: “My First 100 Years, A Look Back From the Finish Line.”
        At the time his book was published in 2004 (click to view our archive webpage), Waldo was 102 years old and living independently with his wife Vernice in a small community in Kansas. He had 100 colonies of bees, processed honey and walked daily from his home to his office and the post office every day. He also gardened and traveled. Today, in 2008, the same is true for Waldo, who celebrated his 106th birthday in October. And, Waldo’s book is now available as an audio book with Waldo reading his own words.

        The photo above shows Waldo autographing copies of his audio book at the audio book’s release party, which was well attended. His audio book (and book) is available at, where a review by a customer stated: “What a treasure! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this wonderful story! … Waldo's detailed picture of hard work on the family farm in the early 1900s, and his reverence for a wise and thrifty Mother, who could run circles around Martha Stewart, encouraged me to count my blessings and to appreciate the modern day conveniences we so take for granted …”
        Congratulations on another milestone, Waldo!

"Audition" by Barbara Walters

Our Fab Five centenarians are mentioned in Barbara Walters' new book - Audition

Writes Barbara Walters:
“I particularly liked doing the Special this year ... called How to Live to Be 150. It was cutting-edge science, including the latest in stem-cell research and a drug that now fights aging in mice and may in the future work on humans.  Mind-boggling!

        "As part of the Special I interviewed half a dozen on-the-ball men and women who were each 100 years old or older.  My favorite was 101-year-old Dorothy, who came with her 94-year-old boyfriend.  Dorothy told me that she is happier now than she has ever been.  She had been married, she said, for forty-six years before her husband died, but it was a bad marriage and finally she had found true love.  So there you are.  It really is never too late.”     Click to learn more about Dorothy Young and view a video of her life.

            Dorothy’s romance doesn’t surprise us at all, and that was the main point of including her with Stan at the taping of the Barbara Walters Special — to show that we don’t outgrow our need and desire for love and relationships of all kinds, even in advanced age.  We’re so pleased that this resonated with Ms. Walters, who is known for her sensitivity to and insight with her interviewees.  In fact, we have a lot to say on this topic, a topic I first broached many years ago when it was really “taboo.” Click for an excerpt from “Centenarians: The Bonus Years” and “love stories” of others we have known.

Identical Twins Curtis & Curran Carter Turn 100

Curtis and Curran Carter are identical twins, and they turned 100 years old the end of August. They are one of this country's oldest sets of male identical twins. The brothers have spent their entire lives in Indiana and have lived about a mile apart from each other.
      "With us, togetherness would be the word," Curtis said to the Evansville Courier & Press." Before one of us thought of something and it was gone, the other had the same thought."
       In addition to the predictable "good clean living and hard work," Curtis has another reason for their longevity: "It's also your attitude toward life. You have to look forward to things to keep you here."

Carter Identical Twins Turn 100
Happy Birthday! to identical twins Curtis and
Curran Carter. They are one of this country's
oldest sets of male identical twins.

 Identical Twins Turn 100 ... Still Driving!

Identical twins turn 100
Identical twins, Eloise Rogers and Lois Fisher,
turned 100 on June 29th. Happy Birthday!
Photo: courtesy of Anne Hart

Happy Birthday to identical twins Eloise Rogers and Lois Fisher, who turned 100 on June 29th. Identical twins turn 100 – extremely rare!  AND, they are still driving!  The twin sisters live across the street from each other, and every day one of them picks the other up and away they go – to the mall, for lunch, and other fun adventures.
      At age 98, Eloise’s Chevy gave out and she bought a new Honda “because it was known for its longevity.”  The twins look and act years younger than their chronological age, but their driver’s licenses tell the tale:  They were born the same year that the Model T Ford was introduced, 1908. Congratulations Eloise and Lois on reaching the century mark!

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