As she turns 108, Mildred Roberts Wright can’t hear or see like she used to, but she carries a tune, singing “Jealous,” a big hit from 1924.
She credits her longevity to riding a tricycle when young and playing tennis well into her 80s.
She can recite the nation’s 44 presidents in order from George Washington to Barack Obama – and the alphabet forward and backward.
She married only once. Her husband, Hal Wright, died 16 years ago. She lived on her own in Valley Center until five years ago, when she moved into LakePoint Wichita’s assisted-living center.
“Well, I did like to play tennis,” she told a visitor to her 108th birthday bash on Sunday. “We had a court in the yard, and I played a lot of tennis up through high school.”
“No, you played longer than that,” a relative shouts in her ear.
“I played tennis as long as there was a court to play on.”
In some ways, Wright is part of a growing trend of seniors – those who live to celebrate several birthdays well beyond the century mark. Those who live to be 110 or older are known as supercentenarians.
For some perspective on Wright’s life, consider 1907, the year she was born: Teddy Roosevelt was president, the Lusitania made its maiden voyage, Oklahoma became the 46th state and the first electric ball was dropped on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, according to the website brainyhistory.com.
Mildred Roberts was born on Aug. 25, 1907, in Greenwood County in the community of Severy, according to her daughter Andi Schomaker.
“When she graduated from high school, she attended Pittsburg State University, received her teaching certificate and returned to Severy, where she taught at the school she had graduated from,” Schomaker said.
Wright taught clerical skills – mostly typing and shorthand.
When she wasn’t raising kids or teaching, her passion was listening to sports. She absolutely loved listening to the games played by the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs and the K-State Wildcats.
But now much of Wright’s hearing has diminished, Schomaker said, and her mother has macular degeneration in her eyes.
“She can’t hear or see, but she gets up every morning with a smile on her face,” Schomaker said.
On Sunday afternoon, Wright was holding court. She was center stage while five generations of family and friends flocked around her.
She held hands and told a visitor her plans: “I am not going to do any celebrating anymore,” Wright said. “This will be it.”
Until she is reminded her 108th birthday technically falls on Tuesday.
“Well, I’ll celebrate as long as anybody will celebrate with me.”