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
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
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 Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)