Ruth Goldman said it never crossed her mind that she would one day turn 100 years old, but, earlier this year, that day came.
“It amazed me,” said the Long Beach resident who became a centenarian on May 15. “I never thought I’d live this long. I had a twin sister, and she passed away when she was in her 70s. I thought, well, ‘I’ll probably be going soon too.’ I’m still here, and I’ll be here as long as God wants me to.”
Her secret? Goldman said it’s all about her attitude.
“I keep saying, ‘I’m not ready,’” she said. “I like to see what’s coming next.”
Goldman is one of three women at the Bixby Knolls Towers retirement home who have passed the 100-year mark. Vera Enquist turned 104 on Monday, Sept. 30 and Florence Perkins turned 103 on Feb. 8.
Surrounded by friends and family, the women were honored during a special birthday celebration on Friday, Sept. 27 that included a release of monarch butterflies. Seventh District City Councilmember James Johnson presented Enquist and Goldman with certificates, recognizing them for being “an integral part of Bixby Knolls and our city’s rich history.” Perkins was unable to attend because of health reasons.
Goldman, who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, moved to California in 1947 with her husband, who passed away 16 years ago after 68 years of marriage. Living in Los Angeles, she worked for Sears as a customer-service representative for 48 years until officially retiring at age 78. She moved to the retirement complex about four and a half years ago.
Throughout the years, Goldman’s passions have been knitting, crocheting, reading and traveling. She has also kept herself active in organizations, serving as PTA president and supervising a walking group in Santa Monica, where she walked “three days a week for 16 years.”
Goldman, who has outlived all her siblings, has a big family of her own, with three daughters, eight grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
Her daughter, Ellen Lowery, said Goldman “has a memory like you can never believe” and loves using the slot machines in Laughlin on yearly trips with her family. “She’s very stubborn, and I think that’s what’s helping keeping her going,” Lowery said. “She’s got a very good outlook on life.”
In a phone interview, Goldman gave some advice to younger generations, pointing out that it’s important to plan for the senior years.
“Young people don’t know what it’s like to grow old, because, when you grow old, it’s not cheap,” Goldman said. “Growing old is expensive, and throwing your money away when you’re young, and having nothing when you’re old, it’s not going to be easy.”
She also said not to “worry about everything” and to “let today take care of itself,” but added “up to a point, because you have to worry about tomorrow too.”
Perkins, who lost her parents at age 7 and lived in an orphanage until she was 14, was a factory worker for 25 years before retiring to work in her sister’s grocery store. She married at the age of 54, and the couple spent 45 years together before her husband passed away five years ago. Perkins moved with her husband in 2003 to the Bixby Knolls Towers, where she considers the staff her “family.”
Enquist, the only surviving member of her immediate family, never married, but she said, “I’ve had a really good life and nothing to complain about.”
In fact, Enquist said living single and independent is what has made her stronger throughout the years. For the past 50 years, she climbed two flights of stairs to her Lakewood apartment, and she was still driving at the age of 102 despite having to use a walker at times due to a hip injury.
Born in Nebraska, Enquist moved to California in 1934 and worked as an operating-room nurse for the Army for 28 years, serving in Germany and Okinawa, Japan. She is also a “world traveler,” having traveled to 81 countries, including a 30-day cruise along the Black Sea from Russia when she was 92.
Today, Enquist said she lives “day by day,” adding that it’s vital to “live every day the best you can.”
Her niece, Susan Housel, said what stands out the most about Enquist is her can-do spirit.
“She never says ‘I can’t do it, I’m too old to do it, or anything.” Housel said. “She just gets up and does it.”