When she saw her two decorated birthday cakes, she said, “I guess it’s worth getting old.” And when Irvine Councilwoman Beth Krom presented the Irvine resident with a city proclamation, Mitchell replied, “Well bless their heart.”
After Krom told her how special she was, Mitchell thanked her and said, “I don’t have anything to give you.”
According to her daughter, Suzanne Becker, her mother’s long-term memory is fantastic. Sally’s legion of recollections are mostly associated with occurrences that brought universal attention, like when the zipper was invented, the Titanic sank and the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped.
“Whenever she does forget something, she will say, ‘Well I have to forget because I have to make room for the new things to remember,'” Becker said.
While good genes can’t be ruled out since most of her siblings lived into their 90s and her baby sister, 94-year-old Maxine Baker, attended her party, Becker thinks there’s more to her mother’s longevity. A lot can be attributed to her ability to keep stress in check and exercise regularly.
Mitchell, one of six children, grew up on a farm in Pentwater, Mich., and moved to California when she was in her 20s. She met her husband while they were both working at ATT, but once they were married she became a full-time homemaker.
Howard’s job security as a regional manager provided them a comfortable living. They settled in San Marino, which is ranked among the most expensive places in Los Angeles County to live.
She and Howard would eventually move to Newport Beach, which they called home for more than 40 years.
When Howard died after 60 years of marriage, Mitchell moved in with her daughter in Irvine and then relocated to a Turtle Rock assisted living home. Along with her daughter, she has three grandchildren and one great grandchild.
As for Mitchell’s health, “her eyesight is better than mine, and the only problem is a loss of hearing from one ear,” Becker said. With her sense of humor intact, even her hearing loss has contributed to funny moments.
Becker told of the time she was explaining the elastic straps on her shoes when her mom said, “What, they were made in Alaska?” Another time she was telling her about the gracious hosts in a small village in Hungary who delivered a tray of aperitifs before serving lunch, and Mitchell said, “What, they brought you a pair of teeth?”
Becker said her mom loves food and always cleans her plate. Her favorite foods are chicken, mashed potatoes, pie, pancakes, black coffee and “Lite” beer. “Every once in a while I bring a six pack,” Becker said.
According to the Gerontology Research Group’s validated cases, three 113-year-old women are currently living in California, a 110-year-old in Los Angeles. The group doesn’t have applications from Orange County, suggesting Mitchell may be the oldest here.
According to Robert Young, senior database administrator with the group, “Reaching age 110 is, in longevity terms, like making the major leagues. Reaching age 113 is like joining the all-star team. Age 116 is like winning the MVP honors.”
Susan Hoffman is the author of the book A Precious Bond and the director of AFGGC, which produced A Precious Bond, the first documentary film about unreasonably denied grandparent visitation. VIsit apreciousbond.com for more information or to order the film or book.