Reflections At 100: 'So Many Beautiful Memories'

Crownsville Woman To Celebrate Birthday With Parties, Bingo

September 26, 1991|By Jill L. Zarend | Jill L. Zarend,Staff writer

Olive Lewis Middleton remembers attending an Easter egg hunt at the White House in the late 1890s, when a tall bearded man picked her up and gave her a peck on the cheek.

It was President William McKinley.

"I must have been 6 or 7 years old," says Middleton, who will celebrate her 100th birthday tomorrow. "I have been greatly blessed. I have so many beautiful memories," says the former Annapolis resident, who now lives at Fairfield Nursing Home in Crownsville.

One not-so-pleasant event etched in her mind was a visit to Germany in 1937. She found herself smack in the midst of history.

"I saw Hitler in Germany," recalls Middleton. "He was the devil incarnate. I was on the sidewalk; there were lines of storm troopers marching down the street. Then Hitler came right down the middle. He took over Von Hindenburg's home. It was a very exciting day."

Sitting in her pink-and-blueflowered chair, she smoothes her dress over her knees. Surrounded bygifts from her many friends -- ceramic cats, pillows with cats stiched on them and books of cats -- Middleton says she can't believe she's approaching the century mark.

"It's the Lord's doing, not mine. A doctor said I was 77 a few years back; I told him 'you need glasses,' " she says jokingly.

Living to be 100 is just not something anyone plans for, Middleton says. Still, her grandfather lived from 1811until 1902 and her mother lived to be 80.

Her gray hair pulled loosely in a twist at the back of her head, she complains that her "appointment" with a hairdresser is tomorrow and apologizes for her looks.

"She is the sweetest, nicest lady I've ever met in my life," says Tammy Martin, a nursing assistant at Fairfield, where Middleton haslived for the past 2 1/2 years. Martin has stopped by on her day offto visit Middleton, bringing her cat, Misty.

"I used to tell my husband I was Cat Woman. You stroke me the right way and I will purr. Rub me the wrong way, and I'll scratch your eyes out," Middleton sayswith a laugh as she nuzzles the feline snuggling in her lap.

Middleton moved from a nursing home in Bay Ridge to a private home for three residents in Hillsmere before moving to Fairfield.

"I didn't know what age was until I was 95," she says of her transfer to Fairfield because of illness. "I went to pieces. I was so ill."

Residentsand staff members at Fairfield planned a party for Middleton today and residents will be treated to a week of bingo in honor of Middleton's love of the game. Her family will give her a party in Annapolis onFriday.

Born in Washington, Middleton attended public schools andthe now-defunct Washington College in the District.

In the early 1900s she met a Navy paymaster, Arthur Pierce Middleton. Since Arthurcouldn't leave San Francisco, where he helped to ready a ship for commissioning, Olive Middleton, her mother and a friend traveled cross-country to meet him. Arthur and Olive were married in May 1912.

Olive Middleton wasn't keen on a "regimented military life" and talked her new husband into leaving the service. They returned to the East Coast, where he became a patent expert.

The couple traveled the world doing his patent work, venturing to Japan in 1959 and later to Europe. Eventually, they moved to New York, where Olive Middleton becamea fan of the opera.

"I've seen more than 100 operas. I saw 'Parsifal' 19 times," she says. She still prefers opera and classical music.

"I don't like modern music or modern painting. I'm just an old square. I'm very old-fashioned," she says.

One of the Middleton's neighbors in New York was Thomas Dewey, the 1948 Republican presidential candidate.

"I was a red-hot Republican," says Olive Middleton, adding that she "loves" Ronald Reagan.

While in New York in 1917, she volunteered as a clerk at the the War Trade Board. During World War II, she worked in the American Women Volunteer Association as an information clerk. There, she met Eleanor Roosevelt.

"I knew her quite well," says Middleton.

Middleton's husband died in 1961 from cancer. "Since he's been gone, I've never gotten used to it," says Olive of her husband of 49 years.

Middleton's fondest memory is the birth of her only son, Arthur Pierce Middleton Jr., now living in Annapolis.

Born on Jan. 4, 1916, Middleton says she should have named him "Bill."

"He came with all of the Christmas bills," she jokes.

A retired Episcopal priest and local author, Arthur Middleton Jr.'s most recent effort is a historical book, "Annapolis on the Chesapeake."

His mother, however, says she likes books for entertainment. "I read trash."

"They hate each other, then they fall desperately in love -- they're all alike," she adds, referring to the romance novels she favors.

Middleton says she's had a wonderful life and has found that most people in the world are nice folks.

"Thank God I still have my mentality," she adds. "I can still handle myself very well." The days that she treasures are those when her son and daughter-in-law visit, as well as when three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren come by.

"I've been greatly blessed," she says.

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