Woman Celebrates 100 Years

Woman Celebrates 100 Years

Henrietta Bassler has experienced a lot — 18 presidents, 24 summer Olympics, two World Wars, the Great Depression, and prohibition, to be exact.

A RESIDENT of Sunrise Senior Living at Fair Oaks, Henrietta has always been a special woman. She earned a bachelor’s and master's degree when it was unheard of for women, and lived on her own until she was 99 years old — nearly 43 years after the death of her husband, George.

On March 4, Henrietta will join the centenarians club when she turns 100 years old while celebrating with family and friends.

According to the 2005 Census, the number of centenarians — people over the age of 100 — in the United States is more than 55,000, the largest number of any country. That represents just .02 percent of the American population.

While her approaching birthday is very much a reality, Henrietta is reluctant to throw up her hands in celebration.

“Isn’t that awful,” she said. “It seems like it all belongs to someone else.”

Henrietta was born on March 4, 1907, in Leavenworth, Kan., to parents Henry and Minnie. The eldest of five children, she is the last remaining member of her immediate family. Her longevity is not all that surprising, however, considering that her father lived until he was 97, and several of her siblings survived into their 80s and 90s.

Henrietta lived the majority of her life in Rochelle, Ill., a town of 10,000 people. She remained there for 64 years, witnessing the birth of her only child, Nancy, in 1943 and the death of her husband, George, in 1963.

HENRIETTA SPENT her career as a high school English teacher, a “fabulous one” according to Nancy, who was in her mother’s class her junior year. She lived on her own until last year when she moved to the area to live with her daughter. Along with Nancy, Henrietta has a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.

Throughout her life, Henrietta has maintained a strong passion for music and has a wonderful singing voice, according to those privileged enough to witness a performance.

Henrietta moved into Sunrise last August and has already bonded with many of the residents. The facility, which provides care managers and nurses for its residents, does not currently have a resident older than 99. Henrietta, who suffers from macular degeneration and thus has trouble with her vision, usually eats her meals with six other close friends.

Speaking of meals, Henrietta cites her eating habits as one of the main reasons for her longevity and continuing good health.

“My mother was always strong on food,” she said. “We didn’t eat candy all day. We didn’t do this…We didn’t do that…”

While she tries to maintain a balanced diet, Henrietta has a weakness for sweets, cheese, and ice cream. But ask her what her favorite food is and you’re likely to receive an answer more common from someone nearly a century younger.

“Everything,” she said.

While Henrietta may not be thrilled about the approaching milestone, her family and friends at Sunrise have taken it upon themselves to give her a fitting celebration.

Sunrise will host a birthday party on Monday, March 5 at 2 p.m., for Henrietta, and she will spend the rest of the day outside the facility with Nancy.

Looking back on the past century, Henrietta values the experiences she has had and acknowledges the anomalous nature of life.

“I guess no day is exactly like the one before,” she said.