“How old am I? I have no idea,” said Phyllis Carlton Peters with a laugh.
Peters recently celebrated her 101st birthday at Legacy Retirement Center in Northeast Mesa, with friends and family, including her daughter, Kimberly Price. Peters struggles to remember details of her life, but eventually finds the answer with Price’s help.
Born in 1918 in South Dakota, Peters lived on a farm during her childhood. She milked cows and tended to the chickens. She even rode a horse to school.
“I rode my horse to school and I would hang it up at Uncle Henry’s barn,” Peters said.
Peters went on to attend the State Teacher College at Minot, in North Dakota, and was a math teacher for 32 years and moved to Arizona around 1971.
As for her personal life, Peters struggles to remember her two late husbands.
“Well, I had two husbands. One was Curtis and the second was Howard,” Peters said.
Peters is fond of her time with Howard, with whom she eloped at 52, and traveled the world to places including Africa, Europe and Asia. Peters even developed a taste and talent for painting. Howard passed away in 1995.
Peters enjoyed her time with her best friend, Wallie Emmerson, who visited her in the retirement center to make her Perfect Manhattans, Peters’ favorite drink. Peters said Emmerson specifically enjoyed talking about politics.
“He would come and sit in the chair and talk about the things that were happening,” Peters said. “He was only 87 when he passed away.”
Peters maintained an active and healthy life as she grew older.
“The secret for a long life?” she said when asked. “I have no idea, I cannot believe I am this old.”
She said she used to walk 2 miles a day and eventually cut it down to 1 mile a day when she turned 92. To accompany her walks, she ate an orange every morning.
Having lived a long life, Peters said she is grateful for her friends and family.
“I do not know what the secret is, whether it was the walking or not,” Peters said. “But I had nice friends who would let me do the things that I wanted to.”
As Peters celebrated her birthday, she was surrounded by friends and family. She was excited to enjoy the desserts while listening songs from one of her favorite artists, Frank Sinatra.
“How long do I want to live? I never even wanted to live this long,” Peters said as everyone in the room burst with laughter.