Photos by M. Scott Moon Caroline Kleineick and Elaine Frizzie share a laugh over tea at the Sterling Senior Center last week. Kleineick, of Cooper Landing, celebrates her 100th birthday today. It's not easy, she said of living a long life. You have to behave yourself, you have to be decent and you have to respect other people and your elders.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Today is a special day for Cooper Landing resident Caroline Kleineick. It's her birthday.
But that is only part of it. What makes the day really special for Kleineick is that it marks the day that she becomes a centenarian.
Kleineick born Nov. 8, 1904 is a woman who has been alive for 100 years.
"I thought they stopped counting a long time ago," Kleineick said facetiously referring to her birthday.
Living for an entire century doesn't happen to everyone, though, and she knows it.
"I don't really think about it, but when people remind me of it, I can't believe it myself." she said.
The U.S. Census Bureau puts the national figure for centenarians at around 65,000, up from 36,000 in 1990. In Alaska, census information isn't as accurate for people 100 year of age or older, but a figure of 2,634 people over the age of 85 was recorded during the 2000 census.
Kleineick was born in Irvington, N.J., and was primarily a factory worker for most of her life, prior to coming to Alaska in 1970 to be with her son who had come up four years earlier.
"I worked wrapping candy for the Charms candy company. I worked as an inspector in a factory when silk underwear first came out. I also worked as a head inspector in a factory for scissors and surgical instruments," she said.
In fact, it's all the labor that she's done her whole life, that she attributes her longevity to.
"Hard work, that's the secret to living this long. I worked hard my whole life," she said.
Caroline Kleineick and Elaine Frizzie share a laugh over tea at the Sterling Senior Center last week. Kleineick, of Cooper Landing, celebrates her 100th birthday today. "It's not easy," she said of living a long life. "You have to behave yourself, you have to be decent and you have to respect other people and your elders."
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Even now, at 100, she still manages to participate in community beautification projects, and she remembers a time not so long ago when she sewed often with any free time she had to make baby blankets from old worn out quilts.
Kleineick said hard work also is one of the main differences she notices between when when she grew up and the present day.
"The youth of today are much more free. When I was a girl, we went to school, then came home and started our chores, like getting coal and wood ready for the stove for heat and for cooking," she said.
However, as good as she thought the children of today have it, Kleineick still belongs to the Winston Churchill school of aging, for it was he who said, "We are happier in many ways when we are old than when we were young. The young sow wild oats. The old grow sage."
And in the same vein as Churchill, Kleineick said, "I wouldn't exchange my good and bad times for anything today."
At the federal level, a person who reaches the age of 80 can request a formal recognition of their milestone from the president through the White House Greetings Office, so it's safe to say Kleineick can apply.
Kleineick said she's not thinking of doing anything fancy, though, and likely will enjoy her birthday by spending time with friends and family.
"I'm just happy I can still get around and into all kinds of mischief," she said.
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