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DOWNEY – To Myrna Peterson, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Sept. 17, age is truly just a state of mind.
Except for taking medication for high blood pressure and a slight diminution of her hearing faculty, she is in very good health: she has no problems with her eyesight or her balance (she walks about with no trouble at all), she has no ailments to speak of, nor does she have any diet restrictions, and, most important of all, she eagerly welcomes each new day and each new experience it may bring.
Her granddaughter, Becky, who has resided in Downey with her husband, Chris, for several years, says Myrna likes to dust the furniture in the house and often helps with the cooking. Myrna lived in her own house (now occupied by one of her grandsons) in Norwalk for 50 years before moving here to Downey three years ago.
Myrna, who was a child of the Depression and one of whose most vivid recollections was that of the Dust Bowl that affected areas stretching from Oklahoma to Nebraska (where she was born) and beyond. Myrna says their farm was blanketed with dust so thick they had to “burn the lights” all day for directional purposes, and that her husband, to get to the barn, had to hold on to the rope he rigged up between the house and the barn.
Myrna’s birthplace is Hardy, Nebraska, and, growing up, helped farm their place with six horses as well as raise chickens and pigs, while tending to the corn, wheat, oats and hayfields. She thus knows a thing or two about butchering chickens for food and freezing.
She attended school at Hardy’s country school house, then high school at the town school of neighboring Rusken, which she negotiated with a team of horses. She graduated in 1932.
Since there were no jobs to be had, Myrna helped the mothers deliver their babies. This she did for three years, until she got married in 1935. “We had a son and a daughter,” she said.(Granddaughter Becky, who works for a Catholic school in Whittier, is an issue of the latter).
Myrna and her husband moved to Los Angeles in 1958 and, a year later, bought a house in Norwalk. When her husband died in 1961, she had to find work. She was 46.
She worked at the old Rio Hondo Hospital on Telegraph Road in the housekeeping department. Then, after receiving training, she became a nurses’ aide. Finally she became an LVN after toughing it out at Downey Adult School. She was 53.
She retired at age 67, in 1979.
“She does whatever she wants to do. She watches TV and so on. She often visits with her friends,” says Becky. “I nap,” Myrna adds, smiling. A member of the Trinity Lutheran Church of Norwalk, she belongs to the seniors group which from time to time goes on outings and the like.
She also finds time to attend weekly Bible study meetings with her friends in Downey.
The popular and still vivacious Myrna in fact enjoyed a triple birthday celebration, held on three separate days after she privately celebrated her actual birthdate on Sept. 17. In addition to the birthday bash thrown by Becky and husband Chris on Sept. 21, a Saturday, in the backyard of their home in Downey, which was attended by family and a large number of her friends that easily numbered 100, including eleven former associates of hers at the old Rio Hondo Hospital where she worked a while back, Myrna’s church feted her the next day (Sunday) by releasing 100 white doves in her honor. Then she was feted a third time by the Norwalk City Council the following Tuesday with a citation for reaching the 100-year milestone, most of it spent in Norwalk.
With her sister (she had three siblings-one sister and two brothers), Myrna traveled in c. 1986 to Alborg, Denmark where her parents both came from.
It is evident longevity runs in the family. Her 102-year-old oldest brother is still alive and lives with his first and only wife in Hebron, Nebraska: they will be celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary in December.
“Three things describe her,” says Becky. “Her sense of humor, her strong Christian faith, and she’s got so many good friends.”
“Grandma has always been special to me,” says Chris, who owned and ran Middle Earth Records in Downey for twenty years.
“I’ve had a good and simple life, and I’ve had a lot of fun,” said Myrna.
“Her wish going forward,” adds Becky, “is to keep living and find out what happens next. In the meantime, she is also enjoying her grandchildren, great grandchildren, and her two great-great grandchildren.”
Published: Nov. 14, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 31