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Women celebrating long lives together

9/9/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

They grew up on farms less than 50 miles apart in adjoining counties in northwest Kansas but didn't know each other until four and a half years ago.

Neva Marshall and Grace Turnbull met in the dining room of Solomon Valley Manor in Stockton in March of 2008 and soon learned they were born on the same day.

They live in different hallways of the 32-bed nursing facility and have different interests. They actually have never really celebrated their birthdays together.

Nonetheless, they share a lot of history, and there is one fact that will bind them forever.

Today, Neva and Grace both turn 100 years old.

While the list of World War II veterans and other residents who lived during that time is rapidly declining, this duo can still talk about both world wars.

Before World War I even began, Neva was born in Rooks County, and Grace, in Phillips County.

They were born during the decade of the invention of Pyrex and stainless steel, the modern zipper and the short-wave radio. They have lived to see nearly half of the 44 U.S. presidents in office.

All along the way, they have kept a positive attitude about life.

"I didn't realize I was getting old until I turned 97," Grace said.

Last week, just a few days before their milestone day, Neva and Grace preferred to talk about the immediate future and their milestone day -- mostly because they would get to celebrate with family and friends.

"Whether you're 70 or 100, yes a lot of your contemporaries are gone or are unable to travel," said Kathy Ross, administrator at Solomon Valley Manor. "But it's amazing how many people want to come in and say happy birthday and thank you. It's a great day for families."

"My son and his wife are having a party," Neva said several times. "And you're all invited."

Neva's party is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. at Solomon Valley Manor, 315 S. Ash.

An open house for Grace is being held from 1 to 3 at Stockton's St. Thomas Parish Center, 722 Main.

"They have really supportive families," Ross said. "That's a huge quality of life."

Neva graduated from Stockton High School in 1931 and went on to a teaching career.

Grace said that school wasn't her favorite thing in life and attended only through eighth grade.

Grace is confined to a wheelchair, but that doesn't stop her mobility as she stays busy with activities in the facility.

Neva, who still gets around with a walker, prefers to stay closer to her room.

"I take a nap (after lunch)," she said.

"I shouldn't," Neva added with a smile.

Neva chose to stay in her room when a severe wind storm blew through Stockton recently.

"I covered up my head," Neva said.

Grace, on the other hand, joined other residents in her area of the home out in the hallway.

"Some people like to be left alone in their rooms, and others are more sociable," Ross said. "And that's OK. We're all different. It's nice to know you can come out whenever you want."

Today, it's a safe bet you won't find Neva or Grace hanging out in their rooms much. They have parties to attend, ones where they will be the star attraction.

"It's a wonderful day for the families," Ross said of birthday parties. "It's also a memory day for the residents, the staff, all of us."