Centenarians still going strong after all these years

  • Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ermine Washington, left, and Demetria Wilson, right, celebrated Washington’s 100th birthday Monday. Washington has been a resident at Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitation Center since 2008. TAYLOR GRIFFITH/JOURNAL SCENE

It’s been a long time since Ermine Washington has worn earrings.
But on Monday, July 15, Washington donned her glitzy earrings proudly to celebrate her 100th birthday.
Washington is now one of three residents at Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitation Center who are at least 100 years old.
A native of the Charleston area, Washington is a wife, mother, former art teacher and seamstress. She is well known for her sewing and her love of fashion.
In her 100 years, Washington said her two sons are her biggest accomplishment: “[I am] most proud of my children.”
When asked if there was anything she wanted people to know about her, Washington replied, “That I am doing so well.”
“…At 100 years old! You are so beautiful,” finished Activity Director Demetria Wilson with a kiss on the cheek.
Washington has been a resident at Oakbrook since 2008, according to Wilson.
“Our residents are very with-it. They can tell you how their day is going, life lessons, and lots of history,” she said.
One such resident is Elise Taylor, who is nearing 101 years old and fondly remembers when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. “He brought our young children through,” she said, citing the jobs F.D.R. created to help curb the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Taylor was 17 years old in 1929 when the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday.
“He was a good president. To me, at least,” Taylor said.
In her younger years, Taylor was a wife, mother, and worked in restaurants. She has lived and worked across the state of South Carolina.
“I’ve always had a very nice life,” she said. “I feel blessed to know that God has a place that can help take care of you.”
For Taylor that place is Oakbrook, which has been her home since March 2013.
While Taylor calls the facility home now, according to Wilson some residents never stop running back to their roots: “Most long-term residents accept living here, but for some of them there’s just no place like home.”
Like Lurleen Weeks, for example. Although she may be the facility’s oldest resident at 104 years old, she is not the quietest according to her daughter, Elizabeth Semken, who also lives at Oakbrook.
“One day in the dining room she talked about education being so important,” Semken said. According to Semken, Weeks went around quizzing residents on simple math skills for the rest of the day. “She asked everyone she saw if they had gone to school and if they said no, she said they should have.”
Although Weeks was not a teacher, she did work as an aid to special education classes in her youth. The St. George native was also an active member at her church, a wife, mother and seamstress.
“It’s so hard for her because she used to do so much. But she’s on the go and she’s strong as could be,” Semken said.
Weeks, who was unavailable for comment, keeps her running shoes by her door.
According to Wilson, the three 100-year-old women serve as an inspiration to their peers and the nursing and administrative staff at the facility: “I’m honored to work for them. Not many people reach that age.”

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