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Batting 100: Rhoda Beyer Takes Her Life Into Its Second Century

Staying active and taking life in stride keeps this centenarian amazingly young

If you're going to hang out with Rhoda Beyer, be prepared to keep up, because she's much faster than what you would expect for a woman of 100.

"People are funny when they meet me, I think they don't expect you to have any brains," she said. However, if they talk with her, that perception is quickly wiped away.

Smartly dressed, hair just so, with matching accessories and a gait that suggests she's not a day past 65, Rhoda is a life force, with all faculties in evidence. Our initial meeting was put off until she was officially 100 (Feb. 29 was the big day), then waited for visiting relatives to return home, and again because her schedule was a bit tight.

She was worth the wait, as it's plain her longevity comes from not thinking about it too much, which is a winning philosophy that she's applied to any setback.

"People watch me and say, 'just look at her go,' and I'll admit with some vanity that I'm pleased at the attention this has all brought," Beyer said. "But really, when I turned 90, I was 90. I didn't think about it as getting older. It's just a part of life."

Beyer apparently doesn't do excuses. She starts each day with 15 minutes of stretching, supplemented three times a week by exercise class at Tudor Oaks, where she has lived for the past 20 years.

"I've been to practically everything they have here...I play a lot of cards, but I also love to exercise and walk, and I'm an avid reader," she said.

"In gym, they don't know how I can do my exercises standing up, and they ask me - I don't know how I do it, I just do," she added. (Nike might want to sign her on.)

Beyer shrugs off the suggestion that she is an inspiration, but Lifestyle Coordinator Dorothy Washa-Riesing confirmed that residents and staff alike are amazed by her.

"She has such tenacity, she just rolls with the punches, and has this 'it is what it is' attitude that teaches us all. I have never heard her say 'I can't.' She's like 'Ricochet Rabbit,'" Washa-Riesing said.

Beyer is amazed at how many of the residents -- decades younger than she is -- need the assistance of walkers and canes. Even run ins with electric scooters can't slow her down.

"My feet were run over by an electric cart three times," she stated. "Twice by the same woman."

In addition, she's had two knee surgeries and a shoulder injury, but she waved those off as something that "came and went. I was lucky to have had a husband who was always active, so I wanted to stay active. I just always expect that I will get better."

For a woman who was married in 1936 in the middle of the Great Depression, living through four depressions, two world wars, and 18 U.S. presidents (and counting), it's likely that setbacks and big events are all relative.

Even the loss of her husband George in 1989 after 53 years of marriage has not become a source of sadness. Instead, she said "I'm happy to have had him all those years, and I just couldn't imagine being with anyone else. He was my one and only."

Regrets? Not really...Beyer said she had not gone to Hawaii or Europe, two places she and George had talked of visiting, but in the same breath, she sums up what mattered more.

"We didn't have the money for that. Instead, we built a house. And we loved to be home together with our kids after a day's work," she said.

Scandihovian Lady March 09, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Rhoda is a wonderful woman and loved by her many friends at Heritage Presbyterian Church where she was a founding member. We had a special birthday celebration for her on 2/26 and nearly every member of our congregation was there to honor her on her special day. I call her the Energizer Bunny! Rhoda, we all love you and plan on celebrating many more birthdays with you and I promise to make you a chocolate cake for each and every one! :-)
Denise Konkol (Editor) March 10, 2012 at 01:37 AM
There are people you interview that 'stick' with you for long after, and Rhoda certainly fit that bill. It was a rare privilege to talk to her.

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