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home : news : news Friday, April 29, 2016

5/17/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
Life isn’t always short. Westwing Place resident Marie Denahy celebrated her 105th birthday Monday, May 12. Denahy insists she has no philosophy by which she’s lived her life that has enabled her to stick around for so long. Denahy gets lots of rest, loves to play cards and make crafts. She doesn’t suffer from any health problems or from any aches or pains, yet does need a walker to get around. Photo by Kate Howes
Denahy celebrates her birthday for the 105th time

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

Without a doubt, Marie Denahy easily can be accused of not acting her age.

After all, even though she just celebrated her 105th birthday Monday, Denahy's mind and body are quite sound.

A resident for almost three years at Westwing Place in DeWitt, Denahy can make her way more quickly - with the assistance of a walker - through the halls than people 20 or even 30 years younger.

She often has been told she doesn't look a day over 80, an observation that makes Denahy smile.

"I guess 105 is the new 80," she says.

Longevity doesn't necessarily run in her family. Denahy says her mother lived to be 78 and her father died when he was 88 years old.

The fact she continues to celebrate a birthday year after year is a complete mystery to her.

"Why I'm still here at 105 I'll never know," Denahy relates. "I've always been healthy. But why I've lived so long, I have no idea. How do you know, really?"

Her youngest son once told Denahy it was her good cooking that kept her youthful. However, she can't credit any one thing for keeping her on this good earth for so long.

All Denahy knows is while she's still here, she intends to make the most of her life and living at Westwing is a pretty good way to live it.

Born on a farm north of Eldridge May 12, 1909, Denahy was the ninth of 13 children. Two of her siblings didn't live past infancy.

With her husband, James, Denahy had six children - three boys and three girls - whom she raised by herself for the majority of their childhood.

After being married just 15 years and two months, James died of lockjaw.

"I had no intention of remarrying," Denahy insists. "I had six kids to take care of. That was enough for me."

To make money to support her family, Denahy did a lot of babysitting and after her children were grown, she worked for 19 years for Petersen Harned Von Maur in Davenport. She retired when she was 72.

Until she was 102 years old, Denahy was perfectly capable of living an independent life. While the transition to living in a nursing home can be a difficult one, Denahy says she enjoys her time there and the people who take care of her.

"I watch television, but mostly in the evening," she relates. "Otherwise, there's not much on that's worth watching. I still play cards like I used to and I feel good. I've got no aches or pains. I really like the (nurses) who take care of everyone. They're such nice people."

Denahy also likes participating in day-to-day activities, including making crafts that are lined up neatly along the windowsill in her room.

She confesses, living a long time had its drawbacks, the biggest of which is outliving loved ones. Of her six children, just two of her daughters, Katherine and Mary Ann, still are alive. Denahy also is the only one in her immediate family still living. All of her siblings are gone.

However, with each passing year, Denahy continues to feel the love of those whose lives she touches. As she sifts through a thick stack of birthday cards, she finds one that includes the signatures of 60 people from a retirement village where she used to live. Thirty people, all of whom wished her another year of warmth and happiness, signed another card.

Denahy says there is no secret to living a long, healthy life. Getting a lot of rest makes a big difference. Otherwise, anyone's guess is as good as hers as to how someone lives to be 105 years old.

"On the outside of my door the nurses hung up a sign saying it's my 105th birthday," Denahy relates. "They do that for everybody, but it's not too often you see a number that big on there. That's for sure. Why me? I have absolutely no idea."


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