Sunday, December 31, 2006

Independent 101-year-old strong in will

Dec. 31, 2006
Telegram Staff Writer

For the past 15 years or so, her goal has been to get out of bed and get dressed.
'I might not feel like doing anything after that,' said Virginia Bowen of Temple. 'But I'm not going to stay in the bed all day. I take one day at a time and enjoy it for all it's worth.'
That may be the 101-year-old's secret to long life. She's independent, living on her own.
Once an enjoyer of novels and puzzles, Mrs. Bowen's wit is still in tact, sharp with a century's worth of comments and opinions.
'My eyesight's not as good as it used to be,' she said. 'It's hard to hear too. But I get up and do as much as I can.'
One thing she looks forward to each week is her trip to Studio 2000 in Temple, a local beauty salon. Everyone who works there knows her when she comes.
'It's Miss Virginia,' they all said during one of her visits in December. Hi's and hello's were exchanged, and the long-time customer got at least four hugs before she had a chance to sit down.
'She's so pleasant, one of our most treasured folks,' said DiAnn Mundowsky, hair stylist.
Not unlike a VIP at a casino or sporting event, Mrs. Bowen doesn't have to wait long at the salon before she is served. Ms. Mundowsky was quick to bring her a cup of Dr. Pepper, her favorite drink.
'Just half a cup, though,' Mrs. Bowen said. 'The doctors say I can't have too much.'
The attendant laughed then said 'Miss Virginia should be able to have as much Dr. Pepper as she wants.' And as much chicken fried steak. That's her favorite food.
During an interview before her trip to the salon, Mrs. Bowen shared a secret.
'My real first name is Naomi, but I don't like it,' she said. 'I'll answer to anything, though. I like Virginia best. Not many people know that about by real first name.'
She was born Nov. 19 in 1905 to a family with one brother, one sister and two half-brothers.
'They're all gone, but me,' Mrs. Bowen said, continuing to talk about her long life spent in Central Texas.
She and her siblings were raised on a ranch near Troy.
'I couldn't drive a tractor, so I milked the cows and fed the chickens,' Mrs. Bowen said.
She was 45 years old when she settled in Temple. She's lived in her home on Ave. B since the house was built in 1950.
Now, aged 100 years, one month and 12 days, Mrs. Bow said she feels fair.
'I don't feel any different than 100, really,' she said. 'I don't have so much pain. My vertebral cushion is worn out, so I have a nagging back pain, but it's not much.'
She didn't have much to say about the history she's witnessed.
'There's been some bad changes and some good changes,' Mrs. Bowen said. 'I know I thank the Lord everyday for the man who invented the microwave.' She added she's rather fond of the automatic washer and dryer.
She was never fond of travelling, saying she's only seen Washington D.C., Virginia and Niagara Falls.
Mrs. Bowen's worked as a nurse at Scott and White Hospital for 18 years. At some point, she said she worked 12 years at Santa Fe Hospital but couldn't remember when.
'I worked until the last minute when I couldn't work anymore,' Mrs. Bowen said, talking about the joy she gained from her work. 'I like people. I like to do for people. I did for people after I retired (from nursing). I would see them, talk to them and buy them groceries.'
She said she's not able to do much for anybody these days, but she can listen and smile to those who need a friend.
Her 'grown-up' life started in 1924 when she married Ted Bowen. The couple had three children and four grandchildren.
'Don't ask me about the great-great-great-great-grand whatevers,' Mrs. Bowen said. 'Because I don't know. They keep coming. I probably haven't seen half of them. They're all scattered around.'
Having outlived most of her close relatives, she said loneliness is her biggest battle.
'The biggest surprise in life is the day you I wake up and everyone you love is gone,' Mrs. Bowen said. 'I've just got one son left. He's 80 and in Houston. He's an old man with a hearing aid and glasses. He's not in as good a shape as I am.'
Her husband died in 1950.
'When you lose your husband, you lose your leaning post, your guidance post,' Mrs. Bowen said. 'I didn't know where to go, what to do when he left me.'
Her daughter's death soon followed her husband's, and everyday Mrs. Bowen said she 'misses her girl.'
Her faith in God helps Mrs. Bowen get through the tough days.
'My Bible is my most treasured possession. The power of the spirit inside gives me strength,' she said.
She offered a piece of advice to young people just embarking on their life's journey.
'I'd advise you to know the Lord and what He means to you,' Mrs. Bowen said. 'Work for him. Lead a clean life. Be friendly and be nice to people. Share and share alike'
This is the kind lady's short recipe for a long, healthy life.

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