Spevak: Nonagenarians are the bee's knees

By John SpevakFebruary 7, 2013 

Nonagenarian. The word has a solid, yet exotic, ring. This intriguing term, identifying anyone between the ages of 90 and 99, seems to be used more frequently these days.

That's because in recent years, there seem to be more nonagenarians in our lives. I consider nonagenarians I know a blessing, for at least two reasons.

First, when I'm in their company or even thinking about them, I don't feel so old. In fact, compared to them, a guy age 67 is a young whippersnapper.

Usually I'm put off by the cliché, "Today's 60 is yesterday's 40." But it does seem that today's 90 is yesterday's 70. If that is true, maybe I can indeed subtract 20 from my age, in which case I'm closer to running a 10K than using a walker.

Second, nonagenarians in Los Banos, many of whom are bright, alert and active, add spice to my life. They have entertaining stories and strong opinions.

Today I'd like to compliment four of the nonagenarians I am privileged to know.

Ann Hoefer -- Ann has a particularly sharp mind and quick wit. A regular in the "Writing Your Life Stories" class, Ann is an expert at telling and writing brief stories that get to the heart of her unique experiences, while generating smiles and laughter.

You'd never know Ann was a nonagenarian. Her perceptive insights and hearty laugh reveal a woman who could still live as easily today in San Francisco or Venice as in Los Banos, a person who could readily travel anywhere in the world.

Ann is also not reticent to give you her opinion, and you can be sure it will be candid, lively and to the point.

Rose House -- Rose turned 90 on the same day we celebrated the start of 2013.

It's appropriate that Rose was born on Jan. 1. My guess is that she started 1923 with a bang, the same kind of bang she occasioned when shooting her rifle as a girl on a Gustine ranch.

Rose's memory today is still sharp. She can recall in vivid detail growing up in the wild Gustine countryside. She remembers well her days as a young woman, when she could be both Annie Oakley and Ginger Rogers.

And she can energetically narrate the development of her successful piano and dance studio in Los Banos, starting in 1952.

Today, she still plays her piano with verve and gives piano lessons to people young and old. Rose's piano playing even makes her languorous cat Princess, spoiled by Rose's kindness, sit up and take notice.

Clara Soares -- I'm jumping the gun a little on Clara, because she'll turn 90 a little later this month. Clara definitely doesn't seem 90, or 80, or even 70.

She still has the energy and wit that she needed to raise 10 children. Even when she experienced a violent, head-on car crash several years ago, she not only survived; she thrived.

She is still active with bridge clubs, the Los Banos Arts Council and St. Joseph's Parish.

Clara tells delightful stories and gives shrewd advice. She keeps everyone around her, including her kids and grandkids, on their toes.

Bill Mason -- What can I say about Bill? My, oh my, there is so much I could write about him. Bill turns 96 next month, and is shooting for 100.

Bill is the widower of Tomar Mason, one of the most amazing nonagenarians Los Banos had ever seen; she lived to be 99. Bill is quite the opposite of Tomar, who was the epitome of grace and decorum. Bill is rambunctiously indecorous, which at times can be charming and at other times unnerving.

Bill has a sharp long-term memory. He can vividly recall his days growing up in Montana, in places like Ronan and Missoula, and can give detailed lessons on using a "misery whip" (a two-man cross-cut timber saw) or shooting a rifle (he was a national champion).

Bill still has a mischievous wit, which often can jolt an unsuspecting listener, and he can still wiggle his ears.

Yes, the nonagenarians I know are blessings in my life. They provide me with inspiration and hope and delight. My guess, dear reader, is that you have similar feelings about the nonagenarians you know.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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