No ordinary 98-year-old
ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) — Pauline Phillips leads a busy life. She still drives, does water aerobics every morning at the YMCA, leads Rosary at the Catholic Church and serves dinner at the Elks lodge, defying the fact that she is 98 years old. She was born on April 21, 1920 and has outlived two husbands.
On May 14, Phillips had a pacemaker implanted after experiencing blackouts and ending up in the hospital. The doctors found a problem with her heart, but since she’s 98 her first doctor wouldn’t perform pacemaker surgery. Pauline’s grandson, Rhyun Rinnert, said it’s very rare for doctors to do a pacemaker operation on someone Phillips’ age.
“It is just amazing, her first doctor said they weren’t going to do it, until her other doctor came in and said they would because she’s so healthy,” said Rinnert.
“I came home from church and when I went to communion, I felt like fainting,” Phillips said.
“She was blacking out and her heart was stopping,” said her grandson.
Phillips was taken to the hospital, and on May 14, she had the operation. But it didn’t take her long to get right back to work. She hasn’t cut back on the volunteering and other activities. She still does her own cooking and baking, and she sews a lot of clothes. And still drives herself to where she needs to go.
Her family has had some challenges through the years. Phillips and her family lived through the depression in North Dakota, with swarms of grasshoppers one year, then dust storms the next year, and droves of armyworms the following year.
“We never had crops for three years, those were very tough times. When we went to school, we had lard sandwiches for lunch,” she said. “Sounds disgusting, but we were satisfied.”
And school in the wintertime in North Dakota, was not fun.
“It was so cold that we put our backs to the stove to get the backside warm, and then turn around until we get our frontside warm, and then the backside again, and we didn’t get sick, we never went to a doctor,” Pauline said.
One of their biggest challenges was when it was discovered that her daughter, Pam Pamperin, was born with a heart defect. At the age of five, she was the first child to have open heart surgery at the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. She is now 71, and Pauline says her daughter still has a “good heart.”
In 1939, at age 19, Pauline came to Oregon after hitchhiking all the way to the Northwest from North Dakota.
“My second cousin came out from Tualatin, using her thumb to get to North Dakota, and she said, ‘Why don’t you go with me to Oregon?’ and I said, ‘OK.’ She said just put your hand out, and I did, and the first car that came by picked us up,” said Pauline.
They hitched rides to Tacoma, Washington, and then took a car to Tualatin near Portland. Not long after that, her friend Agnes came to her house and said she had a blind date for Pauline.
“I was supposed to be with this one guy, but I didn’t get to sit with him. She wanted him, so I sat with a guy named Kermit,” she said.
It turned out she liked Kermit, and married him in Lake Oswego in 1942. Pauline and Kermit had her two daughters. Kermit died in 1975. In 1976, she married Phil Phillips, who died in 1998.
Pauline attributes her longevity to eating right and keeping busy.
“After my (second) husband passed away I’d walk four or five miles every morning, and then I fell and bruised my arm and my doctor said I should go to the YMCA and get some good exercises, so I started going to the Y,” she said.
She was there almost every morning at 5 a.m. until the need for the pacemaker arose in mid-May.
Pauline has worked many jobs over the years. She was a caregiver in North Dakota, and when she came to the West Coast she worked in the shipyards, at a cannery, a suitcase factory and a mattress factory. The last full-time job she had was working for the Eugene Country Club, first in the restaurant kitchen, then as a hostess and finally hiring new employees.
One of her favorite things to do was going fishing in the ocean out of Charleston near Coos Bay.
“I like to fish a lot, and I have caught a lot of fish too,” she said proudly.
There’s not much she’d change in her 98-year life, but there is one thing wished she had done.
“I wish I could have gone through school,” she said. “I went through the eighth grade, but we were seven miles from where I could have gone to high school, and in the wintertime in North Dakota, there was no way I could get there, so I started working.”
But as long as her health holds up, she just wants to continue being active, being involved in the Catholic church, and doing her volunteer work. And there is no sign of her letting up.
Information from: The News-Review, http://www.nrtoday.com