Rowena Pickens laughs easily. At 101 years old (Rowena turns 102 this Friday, Christmas Eve), why waste time doing anything else? As she says, she “has had a good, full life,” but she doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon either.
Theodore Roosevelt was president when she was born; 18 more presidents have been elected since.
Born in Milford, Ohio on Dec. 24, 1908, Rowena was just like many other children. The exception was having a birthday so close to Christmas.
“I’d have to come down the stairs singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to myself,” she said, adding that the birthday presents and Christmas presents were all rolled into one.
After high school, Rowena attended Wilberforce University and later became a school teacher in a little country school.
“All the grades, one through eight, were in one room,” she explained. “It was a challenge. I don’t know how I did it.”
Her teaching career ended when she married Archer J. Pickens and later had a daughter, Yvonne. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio and later to Woodmere. Her husband worked for TRW, an automotive and aerospace company, and was also a volunteer firefighter. She and Archer enjoyed traveling and took many trips, including stops in Europe and the Bahamas.
When asked about the major events that she lived through in her lifetime, including two World Wars and the Great Depression, Rowena did not look back on these things with any great emotion or sadness.
“You adapt yourself. You have to,” she said. “It just seemed normal and you just had to deal with what came up.”
She did say that she found the moon landing in 1969 to be sensational, but admitted she wasn’t that into it.
Modern technology, especially computers, don’t interest her, but she does enjoy living with her grandson, Dwaine, and his family.
When asked what her secret for a long life is, Rowena laughed and answered, “Good genes. And I thank the Lord.” She is in great health and has good eyesight. She doesn’t drive anymore, but when she was told if she lived in Peachtree City she could drive a golf cart, she stated she could handle that.
There are no special plans for her birthday this year, just a small party with a cake.
“Maybe there will be 102 candles on it,” her grandson said. “Could you blow out 102 candles?”
Rowena laughed. “Could anybody?”
When asked if there was a time of her life that she enjoyed the most or a decade that was her favorite, she dismissed the idea.
“I don’t really think of it that way,” she said. “I enjoyed what I had and I put it to the best advantage. There were ups and downs, but you get through them.”
Maybe that’s the secret to a long and happy life: taking life as it comes and being thankful for the things you have, the people you love and the time you have on Earth.
Happy birthday, Rowena Pickens. May there be many more to come.