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Friday, Sep. 30, 2016

Soon-to-be-centenarian says she's always eaten meat, credits her genes for good health

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Florence Phillips will turn 100 years old on Saturday and still reads the paper almost every day, she said. She and her husband live at Willow Ridge Retirement Center in McCook.
(Lorri Sughroue/McCook Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- Turning 100 years old is no big deal to Florence Phillips of McCook. In fact, "It's hard to put my mind around what 100 years old means," she admitted. "I don't feel that old. Gee whiz, if it wasn't for my knees, I'd be dancing."

The vivacious soon-to-be centenarian was born July 21, 1913, in North Platte and has no special tips for her longevity, although genetics may have something to do with it: both her parents lived into their 80s and Phillips' younger brother is 93.

Her lifestyle was fairly healthy. She never smoked or drank much alcohol but wasn't a stickler on what she ate, either.

"When I see the guys on TV telling you not to eat meat, I say ha ha, here I am almost 100 and I've been eating meat almost every day," she said.

She and her 98-year-old husband, Webster, live in an apartment at Willow Ridge Retirement Community in McCook. Her hearing and eyesight are good and so is her memory.

The Great Depression was gaining momentum in 1930 when she graduated from high school. She attended college to become a teacher but after teaching for a short time, found a better-paying job at Theodore Lowe's office in North Platte.

Phillips said her family fared better than most during the Depression as her father did not lose his job as a conductor on the railroad and her grandfather owned a meat market in town. Still, she wasn't unscathed: she remembers many of her friends whose fathers had lost their jobs, the drought that decimated crops, which affected the already-pinched economy and the Dust Storms.

"It was terrible, really, you couldn't see anything," she said of the approaching storms. "You would clean and clean and come back the next day and see a thin film of dust over everything. Anyone who didn't go through that really has no idea how hard it was."

If the Depression was the worst of times, then the arrival of electricity was one of the best of times for Phillips. It was the biggest change she saw in her lifetime, she said and it transformed lives.

"When I think of how we used to cook, heat the iron on the stove, wash clothes on a board ... " she shook her head. "Electricity changed our lives, especially for women."

Webster was attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln when he was drafted into World War II. He came back three years later "a changed man," she recalled.

"He had lost his fervor for life. I could have scolded the government for doing that. Still, he got to come back."

She and Webster got married and like most U.S. GIs, he buckled down and got to work, joining his brother at their company, Phillips Construction. They moved to McCook in the 1950s and raised their two children, Karen and Ron.

Although she'll enter the triple digits on Saturday, for Phillips, it will be just another day. Almost.

"I'm thankful to the Lord for my good health," she said. "I guess I come from good stock.

"I'm a little stiffer, but that comes with old age."

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