Bonnie Bing

At 104, woman finds plenty to be thankful for

My interview with Ena Burke will surely be one I'll always remember as a favorite. Ena, you see, is celebrating her 104th birthday on Tuesday. Although more and more people are living to be 100, I suspect that not many celebrate it with the appreciation for life that Ena has.

Ena lives at Riverside Village care facility in a spacious, light-filled room.

"I think it's a pretty room. It's just fine for me," she said.

She takes part in some of the activities where she lives, but enjoys bingo the most. And she's a big winner.

"We win candy bars, and I win often so I have an accumulation of candy bars. I lived at Georgetown before I moved here, and I've gained a little bit of weight eating my winnings," she said with a chuckle.

She grew up on a farm near Danville and loves to reminisce about her days on the farm, especially riding her pony, Billy, and playing with her cats.

"Never in the world would I give up being reared on the farm, feeding the cats. I used to play with them. Dad said you can play with them outdoors but you can't bring them in the house," Ena said.

She talked of moving to Wichita and attending Mount Carmel from seventh grade through high school, then going to college in Emporia. After graduation she taught for three years.

"I didn't care for teaching so I went back to school," she said. She worked for the Civil Service Department in the Baltimore area and then the Social Security Administration. After three years, she transferred back to Wichita.

When she had put in 30 years on the job she retired at age 60, which she says seems like "quite a while ago."

She never married. "I had my chances to marry and I dated different fellows, but I never wanted to marry," she said.

Now, she can't see or hear well, but feels she has plenty to be thankful for.

"I say two rosaries every day. I'm great on praying for people. I have the cards people have sent to me, and I pray every day for those people," she said.

She has seen many changes in the world during her lifetime and says it amazes her sometimes.

"I've seen a change in nearly everything, and when I look at my albums and back through high school, grade school, and then how things are today, that really brings me up to date.

"I've seen a lot and it really is a blessing. And what a blessing if you understand things and know what you're talking about," she said.

She remembers trying one cigarette, didn't like it, and never smoked again. She drank wine once in a while when she was younger, but says it's your attitude and faith that keep you healthy.

"My advice if you want to live longer is to enjoy what you're doing, be happy about it and don't get upset over things. When things change, adjust yourself and continue to enjoy your life," she said.

For many years she was an avid reader, but she can no longer see well enough to read.

"I loved to read. You lose certain qualities, but you can't do anything about them so you go on living, and playing bingo," she said with a smile.