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100 years & counting: Area centenarians share their secrets for a long life

A child born in 1900 had an average life expectancy of 40. Today, more and more people are living to 100 or older. Such is the case of Margaret and Irene.

Margaret, a resident of Garden View of O’Fallon, is a 100-year-old native of New York. She moved to O’Fallon last year after she outlived all of her friends and most of her family.

“I lived all my live in New York City, but unfortunately, at 100 years old, I have outlived all my family except nieces and nephews,” she said. “My nephews and nieces have been wonderful. My nephew lives right here and the others live in Illinois but they are in constant check. They couldn’t be better if I was their mother.”


New York is near to her heart. When asked if the city is what she loved most in her life, she replied, Oh, yes!”

“I do think of love as a human,” she said, “not a city or a building or whatever. But I say I love New York. Still, it’s not the same as if I love my mother or my sister.”

When asked what it takes to live a long life, she said, “I have no secret. For years, I was a smoker. I didn’t inhale; that made all the difference. I was a social drinker. I ate what I wanted. So I guess I didn’t try. It just happened.”

But she did walk.

“For the last 14 years of my employment I walked to work,” Margaret said. She worked in Manhattan.

I enjoyed Manhattan. It’s a way of life. There was so much to do.”

She pauses for a moment, before asking, “You know about 9/11, of course, when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center?”

“Two years before that happened, there was a little piece in the New York Times that there was available a showing of the largest collection of [Auguste] Rodin sculptures in the world and it was at 2 World Trade Center,” Margaret said. “It was only open upon invitation or by request. So I wrote a letter and I got a prompt request for an appointment for me and two of my friends to attend. This man, Harold Cantor, owned the firm Cantor Fitzgerald. His offices were on the top floor of 2 World Trade Center and the collection was there.

“In any event, came 9/11 and that whole thing was wiped out, gone. And in those offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, those employees [658 people], died. It was a tragedy but it was personal for me.”

In 100 years, you have a lot of memories – some happy, some sad.

For Delmar Gardens of O’Fallon resident Irene, who turns 101 on Feb. 15, those memories include: “Living in a time when we had good organic food but we didn’t know it. That was one good thing. We had our work to do and we had our pleasures so it was what I would call a well-rounded life,” Irene said. “It was during the Depression when there was very little money but everybody was in the same position pretty much and nobody ever thought about it. We just went ahead and did our thing and enjoyed life to the best of our ability.”


She credits hard work with keeping her generation healthy and teaching them responsibility.

“That’s what too many people need and don’t have any more I think,” she said.

She grew up on a farm in Oregon and tells of a pond on the property where she swam as a child. “It was probably a half-mile but we got so we could make it there in pretty quick order,” she said.

She came to Missouri two years ago to be near her son. “It’s very different from Oregon but I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “I like to see new places.”

She says what she has most loved in her life is “the people that you meet.”

“Your life would be nothing without people and it’s through them that you have enjoyment and you learn, too. Wherever you are, you’ll always find somebody interesting.”

She worries that “everybody is so angry.”

“It’s unnecessary,” she said. “It doesn’t help anything and it just hurts a lot of people I think.

“People are different than they used to be. Maybe it’s the speed of life; but they need to be kinder and considerate I think.”

She said it’s fun to think back on her long and happy life.

“I rode a horse and buggy to church so I’m definitely from the horse and buggy to the jet age – well, to outer space and beyond.”

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