– Ziggy (Tom Wilson)
Three-plus decades ago, a callow, somewhat longish-haired reporter for this newspaper was summoned to the editor’s office and rebuked for his word selection in an otherwise well-written and compelling example of Augusta Chronicle journalism.
“Mr. Kirby,” the editor said, peering over the top of his glasses, “do not refer to this crime victim as ‘elderly.’ ”
“But, sir,” I said quite earnestly, “he was … 50!”
Age is relative, is it not? Age is also a lot older than it used to be.
Life expectancy is longer, retirement is later, and 50 – from what I can tell – is the new 30.
We know this in the newspaper business because back in the 1970s we used to write stories about people who turned 100.
If you lived that long, your Augusta Chronicle news obituary got a slightly larger headline noting the achievement.
In fact, that same young reporter I mentioned above was often sent out to interview centenarians. One was a man reputed to be at least 104, and it was not an easy interview.
His hearing was almost gone, and I shouted questions at him on a porch in south Augusta while he kept trying to figure out what I was yelling.
He seemed to credit much of his seniority to a “little nip” of alcohol each day.
I thought this was a valuable secret until a few months later when I was sent out to interview another centenarian who vowed that clean living and avoidance of alcoholic spirits had allowed her to reach age 102.
Well, we don’t go out and interview people who live to be 100 anymore, not because they can’t get their stories straight on longevity secrets, but because there are too many of them.
I have a great uncle, for example, who turns 102 in a month. He still drives. He’s a computer whiz and he’s dating a younger woman (which probably goes without saying).
With so many people living so long these days, I got to thinking, who is the oldest person in town?
Does anybody know? I’m sure someone around these parts is really, really old.
In fact, the oldest documented person in the world lives 100 miles west of here in Walton County. Her name is Besse Cooper, and on Aug. 26 she became one of 23 people with a verified and undisputed lifespan of at least 115 years.
Is anybody around here close? Let me know. An e-mail would be nice, but the phone number’s at the bottom, too.
I’m guessing we’ve got somebody who’s close to 110, and I’d like to know who he or she is.
I want to ask their advice.
That “little nip” suggestion still has me intrigued.