Louise Thompson celebrated her 105th birthday this month with a party at the Fairbanks Senior Center, but that age is just a number to her. Her positive attitude makes her seem much younger.
“I don’t feel 105 because I’m still doing all the things I’ve ever done,” she said. “I don’t feel old.”
Thompson moved to Fairbanks in 2001 to be closer to her daughter, Diane Leavy. It turned out to be a good move.
“It seems to agree with her health,” said her only daughter. “She has asthma, but it doesn’t bother her up here.”
The centenarian is dedicated to exercising, and that might have something to do with her longevity. When she moved from New York to Fairbanks in 2001, she was disappointed to see other seniors “just sitting around.” She started an exercise program at the senior complex where she lives and now attends exercise classes twice a week at the Fairbanks Senior Center. That includes aerobics and lifting weights for strength training.
In 2018, she received a lifetime fitness award from the Fairbanks North Star Borough at Senior Recognition Day. The special day was founded in 1984 to bring senior citizens together with local, state and federal agencies that provide services for senior citizens. Seniors who contribute to the betterment of their community are also recognized.
“I just love it up here,” Thompson said. “It’s peaceful and quiet. I just enjoy it.”
Thompson was born in June 7, 1914, in Orange, Virginia, and lived in several places in the Lower 48, including Virginia and New York. She ran a successful New York catering business, and one of her most famous clients was the family of Eleanor Roosevelt. Son Elliott Roosevelt was especially fond of her pies and often came to her house for extra pieces.
“That one son was always at my house for apple pie,” she said. “People on the street would see a Roosevelt coming to my house and ask, ‘Where is he going?’ I would tell them, ‘He’s coming to my apartment.'”
Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States when Louise Thompson was born. The current president is the 18th in her lifetime.
But Thompson doesn’t dwell at all on the past or on societal or technological changes over the years. Her focus is on the present. She spends her day tending to her flowers, reading and working on word search puzzles. She used to cultivate African violets, and motorists often pulled over to take photos of her picture window, where a wall of colorful plants soaked up sun.
She doesn’t have a bucket list and probably never did.
“I think I’ve been to the places I wanted to go,” she said.
Her daughter took her to Hawaii for her 100th birthday, and she was honored by Alaska Airlines during and after the flight.
During a trip to New York, Bobby Lewis, longtime gospel choir director for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, gave mother and daughter a personal tour of the city. Leavy is a longtime member of the gospel choir that performs both summer and winter in Fairbanks. Thompson is an honorary member.
Most of all, Thompson is a positive person. Her stories are punctuated by laughter and it’s hard not to find yourself smiling along with her. She has always been that way, according to her daughter.
“If you’re feeling down, she’s the one who says ‘Get yourself together and continue on,’” Leavy said.
Thompson is a breast cancer survivor and also had a pacemaker implanted eight years ago. When they told her the pacemaker battery lasted for 10 years, she joked that she wouldn’t be around for the battery change. That’s just two years away now and her doctors fully expect to see her then.
Meanwhile, she’s in such good health, her doctor changed her wellness checks to just once a year, instead of twice, according to her daughter.
Her advice for young people? Exercise. Keep busy. Cook. Bake. Trust in God.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.