Her bones and muscles had already endured a century of gravity’s force, as well as a trip to Costco in Oregon the day before, but a birthday party last Friday had Aberdeen resident Faye Stringer ready to jive.
She stood on the porch of the clubhouse at Leisure Manor mobile home park on Sept. 15 and raised her arms above her head.
“I feel great. I really do. I’ll go dancing anyway,” she said.
Her fellow residents at Leisure Manor threw a party for her 100th birthday. She’ll hit the century mark on Sept. 26. She takes life day by day with a simple recipe for success.
“I get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, and that opens one eye. And another cup will open the second eye. After that I’m dancing,” she said.
While she doesn’t dance much anymore, it’s one of the many things she’s loved in her long life.
Stringer has lived at Leisure Manor in South Aberdeen for 10 years, but Washington is just one of a list of states she graced in her lifetime.
Stringer was born into a family of 10 in 1923. They lived on a farm near Havana, Arkansas, a backroad town that even a century later is home to only a few hundred people. She didn’t recall much from her early life, or the Great Depression that hit when she was a child.
But Stringer’s son, Jim, who was born in 1955, pointed out on Friday that his mother’s birth predates the invention of the modern television. He educated partygoers with a printed timeline of notable world and U.S. history events from Faye’s life, which put into perspective the length of her existence.
“It’s amazing, not just being my mom, it’s just amazing to know anybody that made it to 100 years old,” Jim said.
While amazing, being a centenarian has grown increasingly common. The United States had nearly 90,000 of them in 2021, according to data from the Population Division of the United Nations. That equates to 0.027% of the country’s population, a proportion that’s doubled since 1990.
But the events endured by those centenarians shifts with each progressing generation. Current 100-year-olds, like Faye, lived through the World War II in their late teens and early 20s.
After Faye’s father could no longer work on the farm, the family moved to Oklahoma. One evening Faye attended a dance in Tulsa — a performance from country singer Bob Wills — and met J. Aubrey Stringer. They married when she was 18.
Less than three months after Faye’s 18th birthday, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the war. Faye and Aubrey packed up a car and a trailer and traveled the country to different military bases as Aubrey trained for his deployment.
The couple bounced around the country, living in small towns like Tonopah, Nevada, and others in Montana and Wyoming to Louisiana. Faye recalled a favorite memory — the anxiety and excitement of crossing the 24-mile bridge spanning Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans.
Jim said his parents told stories of patching roof holes with newspaper to shelter from winter storms.
“It’s hardships we just can’t imagine, that they just took as normal,” Jim said.
When Aubrey completed his training, he flew to New York, ready for deployment.
“He was supposed to go overseas the next day, and the war stopped,” Faye recalled.
Faye worked whatever jobs she could to support her husband, saving up to attend college in California. She was a babysitter, postmaster, and worked at a Kress Department Store before the company closed down in 1981.
In the 1950s she stopped working to raise her children, Jim and Pam. Today Faye has a pair of grandchildren and a pair of great-grandchildren. Aubrey passed away a little more than 20 years ago.
“He’s gone now, but we’re still having parties,” she said.
Faye is still surrounded by friends and family who want to take her out to lunch.
“When we’re going out to lunch, she just brightens up and it makes her day,” Jim said.
They’ll go to Olympia or Faye’s favorite, the Westport Winery. Faye said she has a glass of wine every day at noon.
She also loves to gamble, especially the feeling of excitement “when the bells ring and whistles blow” after a win on a slot machine.
She’s looking forward to her next chance to dance, but the music has to be right. She enjoys big-band and swing music, an Aberdeen Elks Lodge tradition about as old as Faye herself.
Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.