July 24, 2013A cente-whatty?
A centenarian. No, it's not some virus going around, though many may wish it were.
A centenarian is a person who lives to or beyond the age of 100, and Crawford County has two. You may remember seeing them riding in the Crawford County Fourth of July Festival parade at Marengo, where they were honorary grand marshals.
While many people are living longer thanks to medical developments, making it to your 100th birthday and gaining the distinction of centenarian is still quite a feat, and due to the current average global life expectancy being less than 100 years old, the term is almost always associated with longevity, wisdom and distinction.
Currently, the United States has the greatest number of known centenarians of all developed nations. In 2010, when the last census was completed, there were 53,364. That's roughly 1.73 people out of every 10,000 individuals who will see their 100th birthday.
More than 80 percent of those are women, as are the two "Women of Honor" from Crawford County.
Clara Agan, of Marengo, celebrated her century mark on July 10.
Clara, lively and charismatic, entertained guests at a party held in her honor on July 2 at the Lincoln Hills Development Corp.'s senior housing facility in Marengo.
Born on July 10, 1913, to Joseph Heeke and Adeline Smith, she said the world was a much different place than it has come to be today. However, one thing that has stayed the same for Clara is that she has a passion for helping people, and her preferred method is to feed them.
"I've been taking care of people for my whole life," she said. "We had a big family; I was the oldest of 13 children. … We had seven girls and six boys."
In 1930, she married Larry Agan and moved to Marengo. The couple were married for 35 years before he passed away in 1975.
Clara said that her family has always been a priority in her life and, as the oldest of 13 children and the mother of five, she certainly has experience on her side and knows a lot about family and the importance of a good education.
While she didn't get to attend high school, Clara did attend elementary school for more than 20 years. Each day she put her talents as a cook to good use for the children at Marengo Elementary School, where she worked as a member of the cafeteria staff.
"I love to cook, and the cooking part of it was my favorite," Clara said. "I still do love to cook, and I bake a lot."
While she couldn't choose her favorite recipe, those in attendance at her birthday celebration were happy to recommend "Mrs. Agan's stuffed mushrooms" as an overwhelming favorite.
Though her life now is comfortable and she is surrounded by family and friends, Clara also knows what only 100 years of living can teach a person about perseverance and the power of positive thinking.
"You just have to do the best you can," she said. "You don't sit down and sit there and say, 'Oh, me.' You get up and you do what you have to do, and you just take life as it comes and enjoy it."
Mabel Jones, of Milltown, is Crawford's second centenarian. Also born in 1913, she will celebrate her 100th year on Aug. 17, though friends and family will hold a party in her honor on Aug. 10.
Mabel's mother, Stella Sarles, and stepfather, Arthur Sarles, as a young girl instilled in her a work ethic that would see her through a lifetime of changes.
As a young woman, Mabel worked many jobs. From working in a shirt factory, painting houses and working in a furniture factory to milking cows and harvesting crops, she has done it all.
In 1931, she wed Melvin Jones and together they had four children. In 2001, just 18 days before their 70 anniversary, he passed away.
When asked how they were able to make their marriage last almost 70 years, Mabel said it takes two.
"It wasn't easy," she said. "It's a lot of hard work."
With a quick wit and a stellar memory for dates and times, Mabel said, as the years have gone by, she remembers seeing a lot of advancements, some of them better than others.
"There's been a lot of changes," she said. "I seen the first cars that was built. We owned a Model-T, and when the Model-A's came out, we traded in the Model-T. Gas was a quarter; (it) was cheap then."
Mabel knows exactly where she was when some of the biggest events in history occurred. She recalls when NASA put a man on the moon, much to the enjoyment of her family.
"I don't think it's very good (walking on the moon)," she said. "God didn't intend for us to walk on the moon or he'd have made a stairway up there."
Roosevelt and Kennedy are her favorite presidents, and she said on the day Kennedy was assassinated, she and her family were in the fields bringing in tobacco and no one reacted well to the news.
Mabel wants to be remembered for the hard work that she has done through the years and has a valuable piece of advice to share with the younger generations.
"Be honest," she said. "It is the most important thing."