104 years provide pearls of wisdom for Bettendorf woman

Originally Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2013, 10:09 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 16, 2013, 2:00 pm
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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

EAST MOLINE -- A kindergartner at Wells Elementary School was asked how many birthdays she had celebrated.

"Six," the little girl answered.

Then she and her classmates turned their attention to a special guest who was visiting and were told, "She's had 104 birthdays."

When Pearl Winter --''yes, just like the season," she said -- told students she was born Feb. 13, 1909, kids responded with a loud chorus of ''wows" and "ohs."

Classes of kindergarten, first-, second- and third-graders pooled their talents and resources to make Ms. Winter 104 birthday cards, which were delivered earlier in the week in time for her birthday.

"But the kids were interested in meeting her," librarian Sarah Link said.

"I heard you wanted to see what a 104-year-old woman looks like," Ms. Winter said. "Well, here I am. Take a good look at me. I even got my face on today," she said, referring to her makeup.

Ms. Link's grandmother, Doreen McGuire, 82, lives in the same apartment complex -- Luther Knoll in Bettendorf, where Ms. Winter resides.

"And my boys had met her before," Ms. Link said. "That's how we became aware of her birthday."

"And Luther Knoll's not assisted living," Ms. Winter's daughter, Doris McFarland, 83, quickly pointed out. "Mother's still taking care of herself."

"But the old gray mare ain't what she used to be," Ms. Winter said jokingly.

"I had never seen a 104-year-old person before," third-grader Summer Perkins, 8, said.

"It's amazing," classmate Larbi Moukhlis, 9, said. "This is incredible. It was fascinating to hear how she lived and what her school was like."

"But hearing she didn't have television when she was young sounded pretty boring," Summer added.

Ms. Winter answered many questions from her young crowd, explaining how she grew up on a farm in North Liberty, Iowa, and went to school in a one-room country schoolhouse.

"And when mother was younger, there were no cars," Ms. McFarland said. "She rode in a horse-and buggy.

"My daddy died when I was 9 years old," Ms. McFarland said. "So mom was a single parent for a while. There were five children, two of us are still living. Shehas 19 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and 24 great-great-grandchildren."

"Wow, that's a lot of children," a third-grader in the audience said.

A second-grader asked the question that was on everyone's mind."How did you live so long," he asked.

"Hard work and a sense of humor," she answered.

Ms. Winter's visit provided a spontaneous "teachable moment" thatput hundreds of things into perspective for students, Ms. Link said.

Wells Elementary recently marked its 100th day of school, and kindergartners had just counted up to 100 earlier Friday morning, so adding four more helped them relate to Ms. Winter's age.

Along with the 104 cards she got from students, Ms. Winter received about 30 from people in her apartment building and dozens more from a card shower her family held, Ms. McFarland said.

"She probably wound up with 175 cards or more."


Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.

(More History)