How to Live to Be 100

Virginia McLaurin
Virginia McLaurin

Virginia McLaurin—who has three children of her own—loves to talk about her hundreds of “grandchildren.” At 100, she still teaches at the C. Melvin Sharpe Health School, a special-needs center in Petworth. The kids there call her “Grandma,” and she says many come back to visit even after they’ve graduated.

Secret to Longevity: “I was raised to grow everything. The only thing we would have to buy was fish. We grew corn, potatoes, peanuts.”
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

William Volkman
William Volkman

As a lawyer, William Volkman, 100, worked all kinds of cases—“everything imaginable, from a dog bite to murder,” he says. Born and raised in Tenleytown, Volkman moved to Bethesda after marrying a Marylander, and he spent four years in the 1960s as a judge in the just-established People’s Court of Montgomery County—now called the Maryland District Court. He didn’t pursue a second term, though, “because it was so political.”

Secret to Longevity: “I was a great one for not taking medicine. Not that it was religious or anything, I just hated pills. Even now, I take three little old pills like this, and here I am, 100 years old.”
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

Sadie Blicher
Sadie Blicher

Sadie Blicher, 102, was born in New York City, but in 1941, she married Barney Blicher and moved to Washington. A lifelong bookkeeper, she managed finances for B’nai B’rith synagogue for a quarter century, and she still keeps busy doing payroll taxes and general ledger work from her home. Her faith, she says, has guided her through life—more than 50 years ago, she helped found Shaare Tefila Congregation, now in Olney.

Secret to Longevity: “I was always cheerful. I did what I could to help other people without asking for any payments. I always had a good attitude toward life, even though there were times when I had a lot of problems.”
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

James Madison
James Madison

In his college days, Jim Madison, 101, competed with Jesse Owens on the Ohio State University track team. After graduation, the Columbus native turned to public service, helping to build USO programs in the United States and abroad, before landing at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. He made his way to Washington in 1969, when he joined the Office of Equal Opportunity and later the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Commission.

Secret to Longevity: “Not anything in particular, except that I was doing what I wanted to do. And, of course, that helps with your longevity. I do remember that distinctly, and that people showed such appreciation for what I was trying to do.”
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

Mary Saylor
Mary Saylor

Mary Saylor, 101, taught in a one-room school house in rural Howard County for a decade before joining the Navy. It was in the service—she was stationed in Washington and charged with assigning sailors to ships—that she met her husband. They moved to Virginia in 1962, and she has lived there ever since.

Secret to Longevity: Saylor isn’t the first centenarian in her family, so she chalks up her longevity to good genes. “My father had one sister who lived to be 106 and a half, and two who lived to be 102 and 103.” But she also gives some specific advice to friends: “I tell the girls [at the assisted-care facility where she lives], ‘Just don’t get old.’”
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

Rose Morgan
Rose Morgan

Rose Morgan, 102, married her husband Jack two months before the Great Depression hit in 1929. Now a mother of four, grandmother of 11, and great-grandmother of eight, she says that the economic disaster, while devastating, had a silver lining: “That was a time when . . . you became close. You became friends with people who had just been neighbors before.”

Secret to Longevity: “I’ve always been active. I think if you don’t give up being active, you feel better, for one thing. And you keep your weight down.”
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

John H. Pinkard Jr.
John H. Pinkard Jr.

John H. Pinkard Jr., 100, was born in Alabama and spent most of his formative years in DC. He studied physics, mathematics, and philosophy at Howard University under Alain Leroy Locke, the “dean” of the Harlem Renaissance. After graduating, Pinkard went to work as a physicist for the National Bureau of Standards. He says he got the job because he wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II. He knew scientists were in high demand, so he offered his services. “I was going to write the President, but I went over his head and wrote Mrs. Roosevelt. . . . Within a week or two, I was hired,” he says.

Secret to Longevity: “I start off each day with a bowl of shredded wheat and fruit. That’s a standard.”
Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

More from News & Politics