UAMS, Presbyterian Village Celebrate 8 Centenarians

By Linda Haymes

Institute on Aging Director Jeanne Wei, M.D., talks with Kathryn Bost.

Institute on Aging Director Jeanne Wei, M.D., talks with Kathryn Bost.

The kicker? Five of them had already hit this major milestone and were now celebrating some “…and many more!” birthdays beyond the triple-digit mark. They include Margaret Alexander, 103; Lotta Fleischer and Jo Jackson, who are both 102; Vivian Wilkins and Dorothy Waddell, who are both 101.

Alma Carle, Kathryn Bost and Dorothy Power, all 100, joined this exclusive club more recently. The eight women, former or current patients and friends of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, were recognized at a Centenarian Celebration luncheon at Presbyterian Village on April 11 (recognizing the 100th day of the year a day earlier). Employees of Presbyterian Village and several UAMS clinicians and staff members also joined the honorees, who were surrounded by family members and some of their fellow residents.

Honoree Alma Carle with her sons Ed, Scott and Ken.

Honoree Alma Carle with her sons Ed, Scott and Ken.

As the eight centenarians celebrated at the retirement community in west Little Rock, they were also being honored by about 50 UAMS employees at a simultaneous event at the Institute on Aging, where a video of their interviews ran in a continuous loop and attendees received grab-and-go box lunches and cupcakes prepared by UAMS catering.

About 100 people attended the larger luncheon in west Little Rock, hosted by Presbyterian Village with the Institute on Aging co-sponsoring the event.

Honoree Jo Jackson (right) looks at the ceremony's program.

Honoree Jo Jackson (right) looks at the ceremony’s program.

Stacey Hammons, chaplain of Presbyterian Village, welcomed those gathered and gave the opening prayer. Jessie Gray, activities director for the retirement community, then introduced the honorees who wore different pastel-hued T-shirts proclaiming “Centenarian Aged to Perfection.”

Jeanne Wei, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute on Aging and chair of the UAMS Department of Geriatrics, then spoke to those gathered.

“We are deeply honored and grateful to Presbyterian Village to be sharing this wonderful occasion, in celebration of our beloved centenarians and future centenarians,” said Wei.

Honoree Lotta Fleischer with Tyler Mosley

Honoree Lotta Fleischer with Tyler Mosley.

“A sage person once said, ‘Learning at the feet of a wise elder for one hour is worth far more than reading books every day for years.’ You are our wise advisers, and we look to you for your guidance.”

“It’s important to honor our elderly who serve as an inspiration to all of us,” Wei said earlier before taking the stage.

“We need to understand how courageous these ladies are to wake up every day and to persevere,” Wei said. “They are our models, and they are the best models.”

The celebration was also to honor future centenarians, she said, adding that, thanks to the advances in medical care, one in every four babies born today may be expected to live to at least 100 years old.

Honoree Dorothy Power

Honoree Dorothy Power

In addition to Wei, others attending from UAMS Reynolds Institute on Aging included Onna Lau, M.D.; Priya Mendiratta, M.D.; Anil Anandam, M.D.; and Denise Compton, Ph.D., with the Walker Memory Center.

State Sen. Clarke Tucker presented certificates of recognition to the honorees, including his Nana (Kathryn Bost) who, during his bid for office, sat on a street corner in a lawn chair campaigning for him, and also Senate coins and the state flag, which was flown over the state Capitol on the 100th day of the year in the women’s honor.

UAMS staff attending the ceremony included Onna Lau, M.D.; Priya Mendiratta, M.D.; Anil Anandam, M.D.; and Wei.

UAMS staff attending the ceremony included Onna Lau, M.D.; Priya Mendiratta, M.D.; Anil Anandam, M.D.; and Wei.

Dawn Yakoubian, director of housing for Presbyterian Village, presented a video created by the UAMS media services department featuring snippets of interviews with each honoree about her long life.

Some were full-time homemakers while others had professional careers outside of the home. Most said if they’d ever smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol in their lives it was only in moderation or confined to just social situations.

Vivian Wilkins was an elementary school teacher who was remembered by some of her students that she’d encounter years later as being strict but as the best teacher they ever had. Dorothy Waddell also served as an elementary school teacher primarily teaching third-graders.

Lotta Fleischer remembers living in Italy and on a farm, as does Alma Carle, who confesses to getting in trouble for messing with her family’s chickens and cows. But Dorothy Power said she was a well-behaved child because she knew she’d get in trouble with her parents if she wasn’t.

Margaret Alexander, the oldest of the group, said the best inventions in her lifetime were electricity and computers, which she still uses.

Honoree Vivian Wilkins with granddaughter Sharon Frazier

Honoree Vivian Wilkins with granddaughter Sharon Frazier

“When computers came along, I was really happy about that,” said Alexander, adding that as a teen, she wanted to be an author and write a book but she has not done so yet.

Bost, the wife of a doctor, said the best inventions or developments during her lifetime were “the development of penicillin and getting rid of polio.”

Her late husband Roger, a renowned pediatrician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a member of the UAMS College of Medicine’s Hall of Fame, received his medical degree from UAMS and began his career there in 1965 after opening a private practice in Fort Smith. The couple’s daughter is also a former employee of UAMS.

Bost’s secret to a long life?

Honoree Dorothy Wadell

Honoree Dorothy Wadell

“I really don’t know,” she said. “I worked hard, reared four children, fed a lot of people. The only thing I did that may have been different is that I always laughed a lot and tried to make others laugh, too.”

While some may credit Carle’s long life to good genes, her son Scott believes it is because she always took care of herself.

“She takes good care of her body and flies right,” he said. “We had to take the treadmill out of her bedroom when she was 90.”

Carle said she’d like to be remembered for trying to be a good mother, raising her children in church and spending a lot of time with her family.

When asked if they could return to any point in their lives, what age would it be, most of the ladies chose their 20s and 30s when they were young wives and mothers.

“The best time of my life was when I was in my late 20s and early 30s; that’s when I’d finished college, gotten married and started a family,” said Alexander.

And the women are still enjoying life today.

“I’m so happy to be here,” Jackson said of living at Presbyterian Village. “It’s just the nicest place and I feel so fortunate to be here.”