Every time you read about or meet a person who is 100 years old, do you ask yourself, “Do I want to live to be 100?”
I want to live a full century if I can be like Lucille Thurow, who lives in her own apartment that she cleans herself. She cooks her meals and is surrounded by sparkling and interesting knickknacks. And don’t think for a minute they are covered with dust. She is one tidy lady.
During a visit, she was wearing a colorful outfit and sparkling earrings. She said she has lots of earrings but had lost one she really liked. “I was in bed, and I thought, ‘I bet it is under my chair,’ ” she said. She moved the recliner, moved the rug under it and found the earring. Yes, she did the moving, just like she does when she vacuums.
Oh, and on the subject of work, she didn’t retire from her job until she was 93 years old. In 1990, she went to Topeka to accept a certificate for being the oldest employed female in Kansas.
We had an hourlong conversation, and it was really fun to hear some of her childhood memories. “I was born in Pawnee County, four miles west of Larned, and the railroad track ran close by. The tramps who would be wanting to hitch a ride on the railroad would stop at our house, and my mom would give them a slice of bread with butter on it,” she said.
I asked her about her school days and was a little surprised to learn her mom held her brother back for two years until Lucille was old enough to go to school with him. “We didn’t have electricity so I studied by the light of coal oil lamps,” she said.
Lucille explained that at that time a person could graduate from high school, take a six-week course and be certified to teach. Because teachers were women who didn’t make much money, they often stayed with parents of the students. “It was a little, shacky school and my teacher stayed with us. We had three bedrooms so she had to sleep with me in my bed,” she said.
The stories I enjoyed the most were the ones where she vividly remembers getting into trouble. For example, she told me about when she and friends took an unofficial school outing. “During the lunch hour in high school, a couple of girls and I were talking, and for some reason, we wanted to get away from there. I asked my brother for the car keys, and he finally gave them to me,” she said.
She drove across the railroad tracks and somehow managed to hit a freight car that was sitting there. “That was my year to get a new coat. My mom said I would not be getting a coat, but later she did buy me a pretty coat,” she said.
When she was 18, Lucille Darling eloped and married Oliver Thurow. They had two daughters, Cheryl Yasbec and Glenda Moats, who both reside in Wichita.
She said that even though her husband died when he was 50, she didn’t ever want to get married again. She worked at several jobs and retired from working for a dentist, Ronald Davis. She had worked there for 29 years.
Lucille has seen air travel change a great deal in her lifetime and was happy to fly to Hawaii, a trip she had wanted to take for a long time. It was after her husband passed away. “I had always wanted to go, but he was afraid to fly. After he died, I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to go, I better go now,’ so I went with my sister-in-law. I loved it,” she said. She has been back once.
She’s a Shocker fan and proudly shows off birthday greetings from the men’s basketball team. Coach Gregg Marshall wrote “Age Angry!” by his signature. She also is a Royals fan.
“I used to go to the games when George Brett was playing. Watching the Royals now isn’t as much fun as when George was playing,” she said.
She says she used to read a lot, but her eyes don’t let her read as much as she used to. And she has always enjoyed shopping. “I still like to shop, but it plays me out,” she said. She and daughter Cheryl shop every Wednesday.
“I do cook for myself, but by the time I get it ready, I don’t want to eat it,” she said.
Lucille misses being able to drive. “I miss jumping in the car and going and getting me a hamburger. I always loved hamburgers from Jack’s across from North High,” she said.
Even though longevity doesn’t necessarily run in her family, she has hit the century mark in good form. What’s her advice?
“Keep going. Don’t stop. If you sit down, you’re down. Continue moving around and keeping busy,” she said.
Reach Bonnie Bing at firstname.lastname@example.org