THE JOY OF BEING 100: TED GIBSON AND HELEN GIBSON COPE
Theodore Gibson celebrated his 100th birthday on the West Coast
late in March 1988. His ninety-nine-year-old sister, Helen Gibson
Cope, flew to Los Angeles from New York for a weekend of parties,
with other family and friends flying in from all over the country.
The following year on the East Coast, in November, there was
a 100th birthday party for Helen, who, like her brother, celebrated
her centenary at a round of parties decorated in blue and gold,
the colors of their shared alma mater-the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor.
Helen Gibson Cope & Ted Gibson
100th Birthday Celebration.
Photo courtesy of Lois and the Gibson
family. Photograph by Marian Hesemeyer.
"Our mother and father and many other family members spanning
four generations are alums also," Ted explains. "In
our family, when the Michigan fight song is played everyone stands."
A few years before his 100th birthday, Ted Gibson had moved
from his Connecticut home, where he had spent the previous thirty
years, to California to live with his son and daughter-in-law.
Although vastly different from the Northeast and his native Michigan,
the California lifestyle is one this centenarian says he enjoys.
From his perch on a hill in Culver City, in a ranch house overlooking
Los Angeles on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, Ted
says, "The setting is magnificent and the weather is wonderful,
but what I particularly enjoy are the warm pleasures of having
my family close by."
Helen Gibson Cope, who also moved late in life from her native
Michigan to Connecticut to live with her daughter, says she regretted
giving up her Detroit apartment, her friends, and her car; but
she finds life surrounded by her extended family and the new
friends she has made pleasurable. For the last few years, she
says, "I have lived in my daughter's lovely home. I have
a comfortable bedroom and private sitting room, which I use as
my study. I have my typewriter and my books and many of my antiques....
And I, too, have a view of the water-Long Island Sound. I take
my daily walk around the broad porch that surrounds the house,
so I get a lot of exercise. And there's a fine view of Greenwich
Harbor, with all the sailing boats."
Both Ted and Helen consider themselves fortunate to live in
such idyllic spots, thanks to the generosity of their families.
"We take care of each other," son Jim Gibson tells.
"Mom and Dad did a lot for us when we were first married
and raising our family, and now it's our turn to reciprocate."
[At Helen's 100th Birthday Celebration]
..."I know Helen is anxious to have the floor, so I'm
going to close now with a parting thought. If there were one
way to characterize Helen over the century I have known her,
I would say this: She is an individualist, independent-and likes
to be her own boss."
"Thank you, Theodore," Helen said as she rose to
address her guests. "This is indeed a happy day for me,
and one I've looked forward to. I come from a long-living family.
My brother has told you about Uncle David, who lived to be 104,
but we also have a cousin who is almost as old as I am, and our
maternal grandfather was over 100 when he died. I remember him
as bright and outgoing to the end.
"What I like about living here is the proximity
to the wide variety of cultural events in New York City. We go
to plays, opera, theater, balletit's all so accessible.
I think one of the many advantages of modern times is the availability
of cultural events and entertainment, for everyone, through television,
radio, public libraries, and free concerts. And I enjoy having
family nearby. There's one grandchild each in Boston, Philadelphia,
Connecticut, and Washington. I often visit them by train. I love
the trainit's my favorite mode of travel.
"I am still enjoying this wonderful life I've
been given, every day. I was married when I was thirty years
old and had one child, my lovely daughter, Lois. I married again
when I was sixty, to an old family friend, a widower, five years
older. Fortunately for me, both my husbands liked adventure,
for as my brother told you, I do love to travel. Just in the
last three years I have traveled with Lois twice to Mexico, once
to Paris, and then a barge trip for a week in France and have
visited many friends and relatives in other states. I look forward
to more of the same. I would like to conclude with a little poem
by Edna St. Vincent Millay ("Travel," 1921), a contemporary
of mine, that rather sums up the way I feel at this time and
place in my life:
My heart is warm with the friends I make,
and better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
no matter where it's going!
"May all the bright threads of our lives continue to
be woven together across the miles and across the generations.
God be with you one and all."
One hundred and sixty guests rose and sang "Happy Birthday"
to the triumphant centenarian. When they finished, Helen turned
to Ted and said, "I'd like a copy of your speech, I liked
what you said." "I can't give it to you," Ted
replied. "Why not?" asked Helen indignantly, piqued
at being refused any request on her 100th birthday.
"Because it's in here," her brother answered softly,
smiling as he patted his chest over his heart.
Then they were off, hand in hand, to cut Helen's cake and
to dance the first dance.