GREENFIELD — A twinkle in her eye and surrounded by birthday cards printed “1-0-0,” Loraine Atherton has spunk when she speaks about the last century.
The Greenfield resident was a New Year’s baby when she was born Jan. 1, 1913. She chuckles when she reads the plaque she received as a birthday gift: “You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
“My last goal was to be 100, so I guess I’ll have to set another one,” she said, laughing.
Atherton celebrated Tuesday with a family dinner, and a community open house is planned for 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Philadelphia United Methodist Church.
With a legacy of two children, five grandchildren, two stepgrandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and four great-stepgrandchildren, Atherton has a lot to be grateful for – and says so with plenty of quick wit.
Atherton was born in Gessie, Ind., to Ora and Claudia Lasley. She met her husband, Horace, when she was visiting the Philadelphia church with a friend. They were married in 1936.
“He had a twin brother – I don’t know how I ended up with this one, but I did,” she said.
They had two daughters, Marilyn Kleiman and Pam Komendo, who still live nearby. Loraine Atherton worked as an operator for Indiana Bell Telephone Co. and was a supervisor when she left to raise her family.
“They wanted me to come back, but I didn’t,” Atherton said. “I wanted to stay at home.”
Still, she was a 4-H leader about 10 years when her girls were growing up, and Kleiman describes her mother as strict.
“She was a mom, and then when we left, she was an entirely different person,” Kleiman said, because many people comment on how laid-back and funny she is.
The Athertons lived on the east side of Indianapolis until they moved to Spring Lake in 1951. Horace Atherton died in 1983; the couple had been married 47 years.
Atherton has been living independently in a Greenfield apartment since, with good health and a sharp memory.
“I’d hate to have to go to one of ‘em homes,” she quips.
Born in the midst of the women’s suffrage movement and the year stainless steel and Ford’s first moving assembly line was invented, a lot has changed since Atherton was born. She’s lived through 16 presidents and was an infant when a first-class stamp was 2 cents.
Atherton can still remember how her Spring Lake home had a party telephone line, and how they had to wait for three long rings and three short rings to know an incoming call was for them.
These days, she remarks on how her great-grandchildren, ages 8 to 21, spend so much time tinkering with their cell phones.
Kleiman and Komendo said she’s been a great mom and grandma. She plays games with her grandchildren. She enjoys traveling, reading, and playing cards and dominoes – the chicken-foot game, to be precise.
When Atherton was 88, she even went parasailing on a vacation with friends in Cancun, Mexico. Atherton just kind of shrugs when asked why she took the adventure.
“It was just something to do, I guess,” she said. “I don’t know, we were just there so we did it.”
Still an active member of Philadelphia United Methodist Church, Atherton holds the distinction of being the oldest member. One other member, she points out, has been attending longer than she has.
Kleiman and Komendo said their mother taught them not just how to cook and sew, but the importance of faith.
“She instilled in us regular church attendance and if you can’t say anything nice to somebody, don’t say it,” Kleiman said.
Komendo is grateful for tips on motherhood. While some ask their mothers to baby-sit their children, Komendo said her mom taught her the importance of being hands-on.
“She said, ‘No, I’ve raised my kids, you raise yours,’” Komendo recalls.
Atherton hopes she’s living a good example for her children and grandchildren.
“(I hope I teach them) to always live a good life and go to church and stay out of trouble,” she said. “There’s so much trouble around anymore, you never know.”
While she’s open to new adventures – “whenever anybody takes me, I go,” – Atherton said she never thought she’d live to be 100.
“God’s not done with you,” Komendo reminds her.
Atherton said she’s had a pretty healthy lifestyle, but it’s a little trickier to do so when Christmas and birthday treats are around.
“I always eat right,” she said with a sly smile. “Except when I get a lot of candy.”