Celebrating a century

By NANCY WHYTE

The special date 11-12-13 only occurs once in a century, but long-time Bellevue resident Myrtle Brooks has had the opportunity to observe it twice: once on the day she was born and this week as she celebrated her 100th birthday.

Myrtle Fueller was born, at home, on the North Side of Pittsburgh, in 1913. She married Walter A. Brooks in 1937, and in 1946 the two moved to Bellevue where, in a house on Watkins Avenue, they raised two sons, Robert and John. In 1984, Myrtle and Walter moved to a house, built around 1900, on Lincoln Avenue, where Myrtle still resides and lives independently.

She has a younger sister: Edith, who lives in Mt. Pleasant and is “only” 96.

Both boys were graduated from Bellevue High School; Robert in 1958 and John a few years later. During the Vietnam conflict, John was drafted into the U.S. Army, and, sadly, was killed in Vietnam on April 19, 1968.

“It’s something you don’t get over,” Myrtle says, speaking of her loss, “His medals don’t talk back to you.” John’s medals are framed and hang on a wall beside frames holding his honorable discharge papers and a photograph of a youthful, smiling military man standing next to a helicopter.

Walter died in 1990.

Robert, with his wife of 49 years, lives north of the city. He frequently visits his mother and assists her so that she is able to maintain her independence.

To celebrate Myrtle’s birthday, family members held a party complete with streamers, presents, flowers, a variety of food, cake and ice cream. Among the guests were Myrtle’s three grandsons: Gary, Bill and Robert; and three of her four great-grandchildren, Callie, Casey, and Robbie. Myrtle’s love and affection for her family was obvious in her sparkling blue eyes. “They grow up so fast!” she observed, while sharing firm hugs.

On her actual birthday, Myrtle was visited by long-time friend Bob Kubechek. Bob and John had been pals in high school, and during his teen years, Bob spent a lot of time at the Brooks residence. Ever since John’s death, Bob has kept in touch with Myrtle. And even though he lives in the state of California, Bob phones “two or three times a week and visits at least twice a year He’s always sending me things and bringing me food and gifts.” Myrtle explained, pointing to a vase of fresh flowers.

Myrtle, a career homemaker, was also a judge of elections for many years in Belleuve. She recalls working at the polls as far back as the Eisenhower administration.

Myrtle’s green thumb is apparent in the thriving house plants present in her cozy living room. Robert recalled from his youth the bountiful vegetables grown in the family garden that were canned by Myrtle, and how his mom would prepare huge batches of vegetable soup in a pot so large it covered all four burners of the gas range.

Myrtle also enjoyed knitting. When she first learned the craft, she said, she “went wild” and “thought that the stores would run out of yarn” because she purchased so much. Knitting items for babies was Myrtle’s favorite.

When asked if she had thought about living to celebrate 100 years -- her father had died at the young age of 52 -- Myrtle replied, “I never thought of it.” And smiling, she added, “And now I don’t want to. Time has just gone by so fast.”

Did she think her diet was a factor in her longevity; did she avoid certain foods or have a fountain-of-youth miracle food she consumed? “No,” Myrtle answered, “I eat everything.”
Asked for advice she would give to people who would hope to be so happy and healthy as they strive for the century mark, Myrtle suggested, “Keep busy. People take “time out” now; I don’t know where they get the time.” For me, “the days were too short; there was always something to do.” Finally, she warned, “Don’t waste your time.”

Robert added, that his mom was “not a sit-down person. She was always cleaning or on the go” doing something. “Even now,” he added, she sometimes gets frustrated and “complains that she can’t do what she used to.”

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