Margaret “Peggy” Oakes is celebrating a big milestone this week — marking her 100th birthday.
Originally, the family planned to go on a cruise together, but those plans were quashed by COVID-19.
So, they went to Plan B.
Part of the plan involves a party for Peggy with some of her friends at Atria Lutz, where the centenarian now lives.
Other festivities, planned by her family, will continue through the week.
To say Peggy has had an interesting life, would be putting it mildly.
She was born on Sept. 17, 1920, in Rudyard, Michigan, about 20 miles from the Canadian border.
She was the only child of Emory and Ida Close.
Her mom was a country school teacher and her dad, a rural mail carrier.
When he started delivering the mail, he drove his route by horse and buggy, recalls Peggy, in a collection of memories called “Centenarian Experiences by Peggy Oakes.”
She also shared some details of her life during a Zoom interview recently, with a reporter from The Laker/Lutz News.
One of her earliest recollections involves her dad’s big Ford.
“I remember getting in and making believe that I could drive,” she said. “I think I was about 3.”
She writes about her early life: “My childhood was a carefree, happy one. Sunday was always church, and I was active in Sunday School, youth groups, Girl Scouts and Vacation Bible School.”
She got her first job when she was 16, working as a switchboard operator on weekend evenings.
“I made $9 a week,” she wrote, adding that “was very good money, at that time.”
She graduated from Rudyard High School, and attended college in Albion, Michigan, where she studied to become a teacher.
“I just knew I was going to be a teacher,” she told The Laker/Lutz News. “I always liked little kids and children.
She added: “My mother was a teacher. My aunt was a teacher. It was kind of in the family.”
She’s happy she chose that path. “I had some really sweet little children,” she recalled.
She met her husband when she went with a group of friends to a dance in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.
“It was love at first dance,” she wrote in her memoir.
“We just both knew,” she said during a recent interview. “He was ready and I was ready.”
So, she dropped her plans of moving to California to teach, and became engaged.
“We were married Oct. 1, 1945. My folks gave us a big church wedding. It was a candlelight service,” her memoir says.
She and her husband, Frank, had three children – Michael, Melinda (Linda) and Pamela (Pam). The family lived in Holt, Michigan, near Lansing.
“Our family was very active. We went to a Presbyterian Church. We were involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, athletics, drama and choir,” she wrote.
“Those years passed very quickly.
“We had a big backyard and it had a tree house and a ball diamond, and later an above-ground pool. It was always full of kids,” she wrote.
She explained her motivation for creating that environment for her children: “I wanted to know where they were, and what they were doing and try to keep track of them,” she told The Laker/Lutz News.
She still recalls how worried she was when her son crossed the street for the first time, on his own. She also remembers how thrilled he was when she let him drive the car home, after he passed his driver’s test.
“I let go and let him drive. That was big for him,” she said.
Over the years, the family expanded. Michael married Jeanne Sigsby, and Linda married Tom Hundt, and then later, after Tom passed away, Linda married Mark Trierweiler.
Pam did not marry. She became one of the first paramedics in Michigan, was the first female firefighter and first female fire captain for the Lansing Fire Department.
Peggy’s family also includes three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Over the years, she’s done a fair amount of traveling, including trips across the country to places such as Minnesota, South Dakota, Arizona, California, Massachusetts and New York.
She’s also traveled to Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia, Italy, Guatemala and Mexico, among other places.
She celebrated her 65th birthday at a castle in Ireland, and her 95th birthday in Havana, Cuba.
One of her favorite trips was to New York City, where she saw “The Lion King” on Broadway, and visited Central Park. She still marvels at the beauty of the costumes used in the play.
Peggy has endured many losses — including the deaths of her parents, the sudden death of her son when he was 66, and the deaths of many other relatives and friends.
She figures she’s outlived about four sets of friends.
She relies on her faith, to endure such losses.
“I have a pretty strong faith, and I depend on that for everything. I’m very close to God. I kind of turn it over, I guess. I’m able to turn most things over,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away Peggy’s ability to get around, or to welcome visitors, but she keeps an upbeat attitude.
She said she still enjoys working crossword puzzles, knitting, reading biographies and tuning in to her favorite television programs.
She also said she’s not accustomed to the notoriety that seems to accompany turning 100 years old.
“I’m not used to all of this attention,” she said. “But,” she added, with a laugh, “it’s not bad.”
Peggy Oakes’ advice for daily life
- Practice gratitude:When you don’t have gratitude for what you have, there is no foundation to build on. You will continuously be filling a hole that can never be filled. But, when you are thankful for what you have, as you accomplish and gain, it will overwhelm you with happiness.
- Be happy NOW:Dreaming of a beautiful future has its place, but it will forever be a dream unless we learn how to be happy in our present.
- Be rich in self-worth:We are all worthy of a good sense of self-esteem. Learn to know that you are more than a moment in your life. Learn that you have skills that others do not. Learn that you hold power in your life. Learn that others depend on you. Learn that you are loved. Learn that you deserve to love yourself, and then love yourself. Then you will be well on your way to true wealth.
- Build your awareness of wants vs. needs:We’ve all done it — bought something expensive, and then ended up with buyer’s regret. Understanding what actually fits into your life and knowing that purchase is going to return its value to you is an important skill to develop.
- Don’t cling to money worries:Worrying about money is an addiction that keeps you from focusing on what else is going on in your life.When you are truly struggling with money, it is understandable that it would cause worry. But, what so many of us do is we go through a period in our life where money is scarce, then we hold onto the fear of that moment long after it has passed. Even those who accumulate financial wealth often continue to worry about making sure their money is enough — and they end up missing out on the joy in their life! Learn to allow fear into your life when it is helpful, then recognize when it is no longer serving you and let it go.
— Author Peggy Oakes turns 100 on Sept. 17, 2020
Are you, or a loved one, turning 100?
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Published September 16, 2020