Centenarian says there's no secret to long life

Wes Franklin

Tressie Chandler says she doesn’t exactly know how she lived to be 100 years old.

Clean living probably had something to do with it, her daughter offers. 

But, as Chandler would likely point out herself, maybe it’s best not to ponder too much and just enjoy what God has given you.

Chandler celebrated her birthday milestone Friday at the Golden Living Center in Anderson, where she’s lived the past 12 years.

Born in 1908 in Radical, near Branson, Chandler has mentally catalogued a lot in her time. She saw the days when women didn’t have the right to vote; when the mule and farm wagon was still the common mode of transportation in rural areas; when electricity, indoor plumbing and running water were yet unfamiliar to the common man. 

In 100 years of living, Chandler never learned how to drive an automobile.

A lifelong Democrat, she cast her first presidential vote in 1932 for Franklin D. Roosevelt, who has always remained her hero, according to her daughter, Debbie Brower.

On the day before her birthday, Chandler was asked how it felt to turn 100.

“Well, I’m not 100 yet,” she protested. 

She gave a little scoff when being pointed out that she would be 100 years old the next day.

“I’ll wait and see,” she said jokingly.

She doesn’t have a secret to whisper in the ear of those seeking long life.  For Chandler, there wasn’t a special diet or exercise. There wasn’t a miracle elixir. There wasn’t even a particular daily routine to follow, really.

“I just made it, I don’t know why,” she said. “It wasn’t my idea.”

The best advice she can offer — which she feels should be top priority anyway — is to “just serve the Lord.”

Brower says her mother never had any bad health habits and that longevity seems to run in that family’s generation. Chandler's older sister had been 94 when she died and a younger sister, still living, is now 95.

Chandler is mostly deaf now, making conversation difficult. 

But according to Brower, Chandler's father was a miner and logger, and she spent her childhood moving from town to town and camp from camp, going as far as Oregon at one point. When she was 16, however, her dad was killed in a mining accident in Oklahoma (a younger sister died that same year of tuberculosis).

Her mother took the insurance money and bought a farm northwest of Anderson on F Highway, near present-day New Bethel Church, which her husband Elbert later founded, and where she was a Sunday School teacher for 50 years.

Chandler met Elbert when they both worked at the Anderson Canning Factory and, after courting a while (exactly how long isn’t known), they were married in 1932 by a justice of the peace.

In her younger years, Chandler was always interested in politics and the news, Brower said, but still kept a lighter, playful side.

“She very intelligent but she was also just a fun, fun, lady,” Brower said. “She was lots of fun. She always wanted excitement. When she first moved here (to Golden Living Center) that was her big complaint — not enough excitement around here. She was just that kind of person, she always had something going.”

Chandler was also known for making great fried chicken. In addition to raising beef cattle and corn, she and her husband had a broiler chicken house. When it needed cleaning, or the crops needed brought in, workers would come from around the community to help, and Chandler would feed them fried chicken, which she caught and butchered herself that same day.

“Everybody talked about how they loved coming over for her dinners,” Brower said.

But Chandler never wanted anyone to go to any trouble for her personally — and she still doesn’t, according to the staff at Golden Living Center.

Just before her birthday last week, Chandler wanted to know why people were making a fuss over her. She was told it was because she was turning 100.

“At least I finally got famous for something,” she quipped.

Neosho Daily News