June 12, 2010

USA: Four Golden Girls "Who've Had Wonderful Contributing Lives"

LEESBURG, Florida / The Daily Commercial / June 12, 2010


Iva Clark turns 104 today and she quipped that she's one old gal.

"But, I feel good," she said on Thursday while surrounded by a trio of younger women -- Dorothy Martin, Pauline Sapp and Ariel Champion, all 101.

The foursome are among seven centenarians residing in the 78-acre retirement community of Lake Port Square.

Clark, Sapp and Champion receive skilled nursing care; Martin lives in assisted living; while three centenarians, including the Rev. John Annas, the oldest at age 105, live in apartments on the picturesque campus nestled on the shores of Lake Harris.

Dorothy Martin, 101 (left), and Iva Clark, 103. Iva celebrates her 104th birthday June 12.

"They have just good attitudes and have had wonderful contributing lives," Joan Tardiff, director of activities, said as she marveled over the group of centenarians. "Iva went back to school at age 50," Tardiff said. "Isn't that amazing?"

Clark keeps mentally alert by sharing her life story with her family, including her memories of cooking big breakfasts for eight to 10 people on her family's dairy farm before going off to school. Or the time when she was the first woman in her county in Michigan to fly in an airplane.

"She spends her time remembering her life," David Clark said of his mother. "Every time we take her out for a walk, she tells us one more thing."

"She's a sharp lady," Donna Clark added of her mother-in-law.

Iva Clark was all set to go to college after high school, but the Great Depression hit.

"It was my dad's idea," David recalled of his mother going back to school, where she graduated suma cum laude from Eastern Michigan University at the age of 50.

With an education degree in hand, Iva found joy in teaching third-grade pupils, many of whom were troubled children.

"She taught for 10 years and she was well respected and people wanted to be her students," Donna said.

"She was considered the best teacher in school," added David.

In addition to her two sons, Iva also has six grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

David believes his mother's longevity can be traced to being active throughout her life.

"She kept herself busy all the time and she worked hard," he said. "I think her longevity has been her hard work."

Iva Clark will be the guest of honor during her birthday party at 2 p.m. today in the activity room at Lake Harris Health Center at Lake Port Square.

"Oh, yes!" Iva responded when asked if she's looking forward to some birthday cake.

Another birthday celebration will follow on Sunday, when Iva is feted in The Villages by David and Donna Clark's neighbors on their street.

Iva received an early birthday present on Thursday, a handmade patchwork pillow made by Dorothy Martin.

"It's something to do to occupy my time," Martin said of her hobby of making pillows from squares of cotton fabrics. "Instead of sitting and doing nothing, I make little pillows and I love the colors."

She credits her hobby for her longevity.

"I'm healthy and I keep well," she said. "I think it's because of these things that occupy my time and I have a good sewing machine and I always say, 'Thank you Singer, you're a good sewing machine.'"

Did she sew as a little girl?

"Oh no, I didn't start until I got old," she said. "I can't tell how many I've made, but it's been hundreds of them," Martin said of her pillows.

Joan Tardiff noted the handmade pillows attract attention from visitors.

"When we have visiting children, we give them a pillow and say, 'A 101-year-old made this,'" she said. "It amazes them."

From left, Dorothy Martin, 101, Iva Clark, 103, Pauline Sapp, 101 and Ariel Champion, 101 of Lake Harris Health Center are photographed on Thursday, June 10, 2010, at Lake Port Square, in Leesburg. Iva Clark will celebrate her 104th birthday this Saturday.

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