If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live in a completely different world, you should consider the life of Vonnie Looney. Looney, who is originally from West Virginia, has lived most of her life in this region.
She has seen the world around her change completely, and then change completely again. Looney has lived a long life.
Let's correct that, she has lived a very long life.
Yesterday she turned 110.
Looney lives at Hickory Creek Nursing Center in The Plains, where she has lived since 1984. She entered the nursing home when she was 90 (she had been living by herself before moving to the nursing home). That was more than 19 years ago.
A quick search of the Internet shows several people who may be the oldest living people in the world, and they all seem to be around 115.
While she has a few years to go before she's close to being the oldest in the country, Looney is certainly one of the oldest people in this area. And though she is up in years and her body may be tired, she still seems full of life, laughter and love
LOONEY WAS BORN on May 4, 1893. One of 10 children, Looney lived a simple childhood in a happy family. She grew up in Looneyville, W.Va., in Roane County, where she also met her husband and lived for many years. The extended Looney family lived all over that area, with some roads containing one farm after another belonging to the family.
When she was born, Grover Cleveland was just taking office for the second time. She has seen 20 different presidents so far during her life.
The Civil War ended 28 years before she was born, and some of her family members and friends of her family likely fought in the Civil War. When asked about this last week, Looney couldn't recall anyone, but her grandson, Roger Sellers, 59, of Belpre, said Looney has told stories about people injured in the Civil War.
Looney said that her father had a company store in West Virginia when she was growing up, and she recalled spending a lot of time at the store. Looney's parents never owned a car when she was growing up, because they were not mass produced in America until she was in her teens. Her family used a horse and buggy to get around in the early years. A bad fall from a horse when she was a young girl broke her leg. The leg never healed correctly, and the injury has bothered her for her whole life.
Later in life, she and her husband had a car, but she never drove one. She also has never been in an airplane or done many other things that most Americans today take for granted.
The world was a very different place in 1893. Her family had no phones, no radios, no televisions, no computers (obviously) and very little of the technology that's common today. There were no movies, not even silent ones; prohibition was still nearly 30 years in the future; and women were not allowed to vote. America only had 44 states when she was born. Utah joined the country as the 45th state in 1896.
She later married and had four children, and worked much of her life as a homemaker. During World War II, she also worked in Akron for a time in a rubber factory.
"We worked hard," Looney recalled about the workers at the rubber factory. By the time America joined World War II, Looney was already 48.
THOUGH HER HUSBAND DIED more than 60 years ago, Looney's four children are all still living. Jack Looney is 88, Edith Ballard is 86, Fanny Mills is 85 and Daniel Looney is 81.
Looney also has eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. The great-great-grandchildren are 18 months old, 4 years old and 2 years old.
According to Sellers, long lives run in the family.
"Her brothers and sisters lived long too," Sellers said about his grandmother. "Her one sister was way over 100, and her brother was about 100." Looney's aunt (her mother's sister), lived to be 111, Sellers said.
"That lady, her daughter kept her, and her daughter was like 85," Sellers said.
According to Sellers, his grandmother does not have any secret foods or drinks or any other secret to longevity. He added that she has made some joking references to longevity in the past, though.
Once when a nurse asked her how she happened to live so long, Looney asked the nurse if she was married, Sellers said. After the nurse confirmed that she was, Looney kindly advised her, "Get rid of him," Sellers recalled with a laugh.
Another time when a nurse at Hickory Creek asked her about living so long, Looney gave a memorable answer.
"My grandma said she thought the Lord forgot about her," Sellers said.
Looney said she believes in God and always went to church.
Asked if she thinks a higher power has a plan for her, keeping her alive for so long, Looney said she doesn't know what God has in mind for her. She just takes each day as it comes and enjoys her life.
LIVING UNTIL YOU ARE 110, you would see many wonderful things, but you would see many sad things as well. In addition to her husband, all of her friends from her younger days have died. Fortunately, her children and grandchildren are all in good health, but it must be hard knowing you are one of the last remaining members of a whole generation.
She has made friends at Hickory Creek, where the staff is at her beck and call, and her family visits often.
"If someone dies in the family, we don't even tell her," Sellers said. There's no need to upset her, Sellers said, so they mainly just give her the happy news. She sleeps much of the day, and when she wants to get up and get around, the staff helps her out of bed into her wheelchair. In December 2001, Looney went on one of the van rides (for several hours) to look at the Christmas lights. Ashlye Clark, activity director at Hickory Creek, said it was amazing that Looney wanted to go on such a long trip in the van.
Clark said the staff at Hickory Creek enjoys taking care of and visiting with Looney.
"She really loves people," Clark said. Clark and Looney hold hands while they talk, and Looney refers to Clark often as "honey." The staff at Hickory Creek stop in often to check on Looney, and visit with her because they enjoy talking with her so much.
Sellers said that his grandmother always has been a sweet, loving woman. "I can't ever remember grandma getting on us about anything," Sellers said.
Except for the natural problems caused by being 110, she is in good health and doesn't say much about being in pain, Sellers said.
"She gets a little shot of pneumonia every once in a while, but she bounces back in a couple of days," Sellers said. Looney used to drink brandy quite often to help with her emphysema and her cough, but she doesn't do that anymore.
"She rubbed snuff for years," Sellers added.
Looney's short-term memory today isn't very good, but she can still recall people from her childhood and plenty of memories from long ago, Sellers said.
"Some days are a lot better than others," he added.
Asked what she liked to do for fun, Looney said she has o