Profiles of Seniors
Photos of Senior Spirit
Dona L. Irvin
We Envy Her View of the Beautiful Hills and the Bay
Maybelle Broussard was born in 1914 in Oakland, California, and has lived there for most of her life. She grew up in a middle class African-American home in West Oakland, an area then inhabited almost completely by immigrants from European countries. In time, West Oakland became a haven for the ever increasing numbers of African Americans that came into California from the southern part of the United States. Her family was headed by a loving father who stressed the importance of higher education, and a mother who taught home economics at Prairie View College, in the era when Negro students were not allowed to enter the all-white, higher accredited Texas A. and M. University in nearby College Station.
As an adult she has traveled by land, sea, and air over a large portion of the globe. Many of these explorations were with group tours to Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Africa, and to Cuba. Some of her travels were while she was still working, but most were after her retirement. Each destination made a contribution of its own uniqueness to her broad exposure to the inhabitants of the earth other countries on the Earth..Of special interest to her was the visit to Zimbabwe, formerly known as Southern Rhodesia, in the southern part of Africa, where she stayed in the home of an African-American lady who was a teacher in that country for twenty-five years. Such an opportunity gave her exposure to much more than the usual tourist sights. It all fit into her long-standing interest in cultures that differed from hers, a desire that began when she took a seventh grade class in Spanish. That initial seed encouraged her to pursue further study that ultimately led into full fluency in the Spanish language. Because of this background, she was well qualified for her career in a position that took advantage of her familiarity with Spanish, working as a State of California counselor to Spanish-speaking applicants for employment.When she retired from this position she taught English As A Second Language to students in the Oakland Public Schools.
After becoming a widow in1971 Maybelle Broussard lived alone for seventeen years, then remarried and was widowed again. Now her older son, Ernest Jr., a retired airplane mechanic, shares the house with her and offers assistance with house cleaning, cooking, and outside upkeep. Their home is a uniquely designed house in the Oakland hills. The front entrance, with its show of brightly colored flowers leads the way into the living room, then into the spacious dining area with large windows that display a spectacular panoramic view, an almost 100-degree expanse of unparalleled beauty. Just below, there are the roofs of houses and streets. Farther out, she can see the San Francisco Bay, the San Mateo Bridge, the San Francisco Bay Bridge, and sections of cities like San Mateo, San Leandro, Oakland, and San Francisco. There is a view of Mount Tamalpais in the distance, with all of its majestic beauty. As night time arrives, the golden sunsets and the lights of houses and streets below add their own unparalleled exhibition of beauty. All of this adds to the contentment and comfort of her home.
In March 2004 Maybelle Broussard was honored in a jubilant event to celebrate her 90th birthday at the beautiful Joaquin Miller Club House, an attractive facility of the Oakland Recreation Department. The room was filled with her entire family, recently met and long time friends and neighbors, former co-workers, and scores of other well wishers. A representative of the City of Oakland presented a beautiful document that proclaimed March 31, 2004 Maybelle Broussard Day throughout the whole of Oakland. This will remain an unforgettable happening in her life.
Aside from a successful operation for cancer in 1984, and surgery to remove a bursted appendix a few years afterwards, she has had no other significant health challenges. However, she has experienced bouts of vertigo that led her to stop driving her car. For physical exercise, she maintains a regular routine of walking twenty minutes, five days a week, covering an expanse up and down the block where she lives, with slight elevations in both directions. For medical care she can rely on an excellent health plan administered by the federal government, based upon the former employment status of her deceased husband. This gives her free choice of medical practitioners and facilities.
Far from living a sedentary, home bound existence, Maybelle Broussard attends Sunday morning services at her church almost every week, occasionally spends social time with friends, and takes part in community activities. Her television time is almost entirely with the Oprah Show and news programs that keep her informed about national and international matters. She is still active in the investment club that was formed thirty-five years ago with a membership of twenty-four people, but whose active number is now reduced to eight. Her responsibility is to chair the committee that watches the daily stock values and makes decisions about their investments. The group also gets together for the fun of seeing each other in friendly settings.
Another rewarding activity for Maybelle Broussard is with Black Women Stirring The Waters, a group that invites frequent speakers who keep them informed about a wide scope of current and historical matters having to do with the welfare of Africans and African Americans all over the world. She assists in planning, selecting, and securing programs and speakers for the regular meetings. For fourteen years she was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and during the past years she was active in the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her latest travel away from California was on a recent ten-day trip she and her daughter, Antoinette, took to Louisiana.
Family relations have always been foremost in Maybelle Broussards mind, and more so as she ages. With the daily companionship of her older son, Ernest, in their home, her younger son, John not far away in the East Bay community of Patterson, and her daughter Antoinette residing just across the bay, in San Francisco, the entire family can get together whenever they want to do so, without extended travel time and effort. This adds a wonderful dimension of closeness for her as the mother, and for them as her children.
The thought of how long she would live was never a concern to Maybelle Broussard in the past, but now she is very proud of her long years, especially with the high quality of health she enjoys. She is satisfied with her general condition, physical and mental, and most of all, thankful that she can take care of her self. She can conduct the business side of her life without assistance, and can still travel away from home whenever she wants to do so. As she adds years to her life, she has become aware that time goes much more swiftly than when she was a younger woman, making it harder for her to keep an accurate count of days of the week and dates. She must rely on the calendar much more than in past years.
Her greatest disappointment is that she can no longer operate her own automobile. Para Transit, the city-sponsored means of travel for seniors serves the purpose, but she would be much better satisfied if she could still sit behind the wheel of her own car and go wherever she wants to, whenever she wants to.back to top
A Room Filled With Her Beautiful Works of Art
Charlotte Pletcher, now ninety-two years old, was born in Pepperell, Massachusetts in 1912 and came to California in 1949. She comes from a family with a history of longevity. Her mother lived to be ninety-nine years old, and she has a sister, now age ninety-eight, who lives in the eastern part of the United States. Her other siblings are no longer alive.
After forty-three years of marriage, Charlotte Pletcher became a widow when her husband, Ralph, passed away in 1994. Since then she has lived alone in her very attractive and equally comfortable apartment situated in a quiet neighborhood only one block from Oaklands scenic Lake Merritt. She is proud of her spacious living room, dining area, cooking space, two bed rooms and two bath rooms. The windows give her ample lighting from outside and sufficient views of the nearby area. Her walls are filled with tasteful art work, and pictures of her family, including grand children and great grand children. She does her own shopping and enjoys the interaction with people she meets in the process, and takes pleasure in preparing all of her meals for herself or for her family members, adults and children, when they come to visit. In exchange, they consume, with gusto, the meals she offers them..
For more than fifty years Charlotte Pletcher worked as a general medical assistant at one time in the offices of a group of medical doctors, and later at a psychiatric hospital. She had a wide variety of responsibilities which included taking the histories of patients, and administering electrocardiogram tests. She was so efficient at whatever she was assigned to do that she was affectionately known as Dr. Pletcher by her employers. After this long term of service she retired from outside employment in 1978 at the age of 66.
If Charlotte Pletcher is asked to show her apartment to friends, she takes them through the entire area with joy, but it is clear that the room that brings her the most pleasure is the one she calls her crafts room, where she stores skeins of woolen yarn and an assortment of completed works that are the result of the way she spends the majority of her hours during the day. There appears to be hundreds of skeins in every imaginable color and shade, ready to be crocheted into lap robes. And there are plastic bags filled with the left over wool that can combined with others for future designs or as decorations. One entire space has completed robes waiting to be delivered to their designated owners. The joy of each item is intensified by the beauty of the colors and the designs, and by the fact that there is seldom duplication in any two robes.
Many years ago Charlotte Pletcher joined an American Association of Retired People (AARP) project that encouraged its members to take part in individual community activities. At about the same time she saw a movie that opened her eyes to a productive way to use the skills she had developed since childhood. Her contribution would be to give her attractively crocheted wraps to seniors who are home bound or confined to nursing facilities. Immediately she began to donate the products of her labor to the Bay Area Community Services program, an Alameda County agency that offers assistance to its residents. They distributed the items to recipients who showed great appreciation of their warmth and comfort. Each item takes about twenty-five hours to complete. In the first year she completed a total of sixty robes for the county, and has continued to do so without interruption.
In recognition of her long time contributions to their programs, the Bay Area Community Services included a salute to Charlotte Pletcher in its Fall 2004 publication, BACS, which is widely distributed over Alameda County in the East Bay Area of northern California. It included an article about the value of her work to the total program, thankful quotations from recipients of her crocheting skills, and a picture of the artist in her crafts room, proudly displaying one of her creations.
At 4 P.M. each day, rather than devoting her time to radio or television entertainment, Charlotte Pletcher takes up her yarn and needles and immerses herself in the joy of developing the individual strands of wool into a useful gift for an unknown person who will welcome its benifits. She accepts the hours needed to complete one item, not as a chore, but as therapy. That time represents renewed opportunities to concentrate on the details of the day and give thanks for the numerous blessings she enjoys.
Charlotte Pletcher enjoys other activities besides the therapy of crocheting. She goes to a Senior Center two days a week for activities and programs of interest to her, and she usually walks the 3.25 miles around the circumference of nearby Lake Merritt three days out of seven.
Almost every Sunday of the month she drives to the morning services of her church. She no longer takes an active role in its programs, but it is evident that her presence as one of its elders (called Sages by the church community) generates appreciation, love and honor for her former contributions and for her obvious example of the sort of life that is desired for all of its people.
In her ninety-two years of life, Charlotte Pletcher has had no major physical or mental challenges. The only concern she fears is the possibility of having to take an actual behind-the- wheel driving test to renew her driving license which will expire on her next birthday, only four months in the future. She has no dread of a written examination that concerns the laws of the roads, and she is perfectly comfortable with her ability to operate a car safely. But she fears that her advanced age may cause a test agent to be more critical than necessary of her actual handling of the vehicle than should be required. She has heard of cases where such judgements caused well qualified older drivers to fail the total renewal process. She is aware of the availability of the City of Oaklands Para Transit Program, and would use it, but her choice would be to continue driving herself wherever she wants to go, and at times of her own choosing.
In summation, Charlotte Pletcher gives a positive example of life as an older person who lives a productive life with interests, skills, and activities that give her satisfactions within the days of her week.back to top
Andrew Frank Hatch
Don't Let His Shy Words Fool You
Despite his emphatic initial declamation that There is nothing unusual about me, Im just me, a southern boy just like all of the others, it is apparent from the first glimpse of him that Andrew Hatch, a 106-year-old man born in an area of Texas near Louisiana on October 7, 1889 is far from ordinary. He is a spiritually oriented man who gives high praise and thanks to The Creator, who he describes as a friend of the human race. He gives great thanks to The Creator for the quality of the physical and mental health that allows him to enjoy this stage of his life, and he accepts his longevity as a further blessing from The Creator.
Andrew Hatch spent his early years in the highly segregated section along the borders of Texas and Louisiana, and has resided in California since1933. His only living relatives are his daughter, Delane, her husband, and their children. Delane, a beautiful professional woman, the owner of Delanes Natural Nail Care in San Leandro, California, takes great pride in her father and gladly shares news about him with other people. Her frequent visits bring great joy to him and help maintain the high level of his life as an elder.
After the end of World War II, Andrew Hatch became a member of the Merchant Marines. In those days of strict racial segregation and discrimination in all aspects of employment, his duties were confined to the kitchens of each ship that he was assigned to. In spite of those restrictions and indignities, he is proud of having traveled all over the world, stopping at various ports on this continent and Europe, and in Africa, mostly in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Egypt. He cherishes this exposure to various approaches to life, with opportunities to witness and understand the global scheme of religions, cultures, and the general ways of living. He took advantage of these travels to expand his understanding of the differences and similarities of people in a large section of the world and make comparisons with what he had experienced in the United States. After this, he worked in the shipyards in Oakland, Richmond, and Vallejo, all in California.
The greatest challenge to Andrew Hatchs health came in 1971, in Oakland, the result of a major fire in the house where he was living. He survived this life threatening event with permanent damage to his legs and hands, injuries that curtailed his ability to use his limbs as he formerly did, and to walk without assistance. These conditions led to his retirement not long afterwards. Now he enjoys increased mobility using the motor scooter given to him by his medical doctor, and he is proud of his ability to take occasional short walks on the sidewalk outside of his living quarters without the aid of the scooter.
Because of decreased eyesight and hearing, Andrew Hatch does not spend nearly as much time as he formerly did with radio or television, or with sports such as the baseball and football games he enjoyed in the past when he followed the exciting performances and records set by Bobby Bonds, Willie Mays, and other stars of the San Francisco Giants. Although the intensity of his interest has faded, he is still proud of Barry Bondss current statistics and continues to take joy in his successes.
In conversations with Andrew Hatch there is a new sparkle in his eyes, and a definite elevation of interest and involvement in his voice when the subject of politics is brought up. This is apparent as soon as the discussion changes from personal or non important events to local or national politics. His response takes on a definitely more assertive quality, making it apparent that he has retained his interest in the welfare of his country, especially in the November 2004 national elections. In preparation for that day, he had studied his sample ballot diligently and was well prepared when he went into the voting booth optimistic that his chosen candidate for president of the country, John Kerry, would be the winner. He cast his ballot secure in his conviction that the majority of the voting public shared his personal conviction that war is never necessary, and that The Creator never approves of armed conflict, such as the war in Iraq.
But when the final results indicated that George W. Bush, the incumbent who had sponsored that war, had been reelected, his immediate shock was intense. He went into a period of determination and reflection along with self healing and personal effort. And rather than retreating into permanent frustration, he renewed his decision to continue to support candidates and issues that agree with his personal ideals.
One recent gift to Andrew Hatch from his daughter was a celebration of his 106th birthday, an intimate gathering of the adults and children of his family and close friends, including Esther Mabry, a woman well honored for her Esthers Orbit Room, a pioneer black owned and operated restaurant on Seventh Street in West Oakland more than four decades ago when the local African-American population was mostly restricted to that section of the city. Young people and adults participated in a spirited discussion about a variety of subjects, giving their points of view that reflected their individual stage of life, whether still in youth or having existed many more decades on earth.
The youthful group asked questions and listened to the responses from the honoree, all based upon his experiences in Oakland and the local African-American population in the 1950s and 1960s, and about the differences in todays accepted rules of conduct in comparison to the earlier days. He spoke about the value of widely accepted inventions such as computers, televisions, and air plane flights across the country that were unknown when he was a young man. His answer to each question was given with clarity and good humor. One highlight of the evening was when a very young child posed the Why cant cars fly?
Upon the first meeting with Andrew Hatch and into a conversation with him, it is difficult to believe that he is a man of one hundred and six years. His face is full of life and radiates an impression of interest and involvement. He now lives in San Pablo Senior Residency, a facility for seniors in downtown Oakland, California which provides attractive, well furnished affordable housing for seniors. Meals On Wheels, a community organization that provides nourishment for older citizens who are unable to shop and cook for themselves, brings in daily food, and there is reliable medical care in addition to programs for education and amusement. He has accepted the voluntary responsibility of telephoning a fellow resident at 6 A. M. each morning so that she can start her days work at the reception desk of the residency on time. If she does not answer the call, he goes to her room and knocks on the door until she responds.
It is not surprising that his house mates celebrate Andrew Hatchs birthday each year, and that in his retiring manner he continues his efforts to discourage such recognition. But because he is so well respected by the staff and residents as a leader and as a man who is well informed about all areas of life, that is an annual affair. Everyone at the residency knows that this man is filled with varied interests and has something to offer each person he has interaction with every day of the week.