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.
Today is Tuesday, Sept 2, the 245th day of 2014. There are 120 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: It is estimated that 300,000 people attended the recent Democratic convention in Chicago when Gen. George B. McClellan of New Jersey was nominated as a candidate for president of the United States. 1889 — 125 years ago: Alderman Frank Ill, Winslow Howard and Captain J.M. Montgomery returned from Milwaukee, where they attended the national Grand Army of the Republic encampment. 1914 — 100 years ago: Three members of the Rock Island YMCA accepted positions as physical directors of other associations. Albert Cook went to Kewanee, C.D. Curtis to Canton and Willis Woods to Leavenworth, Kan. 1939 — 75 years ago: Former President Herbert Hoover appealed for national support of President F.D. Roosevelt and Congress in every effort to keep the United States out of war. 1964 — 50 years ago: The Rock Island Junior chamber pf Commerce has received answers to about 65 % of the 600 questionnaires mailed out recently in a "Community Attitude Survey" to analyze sentiments of citizens towards their city's various recreational, educational, and civic service programs. 1989 — 25 years ago: The two thunderstorms passing through the Quad Cities last night and early today left some area residents reaching for their flashlights.