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103-year-old Folsom woman celebrates long, happy life

By: Laura Newell, Features Editor
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Margaret “Skeeter” Davis White recently celebrated a milestone birthday, turning 103 years old, with her family and friends by her side at the Folsom Convalescent Hospital.

“Why have I lived so long? How long will I live? I don’t know, but I have sure enjoyed the ride,” White said. “God has given me many blessings, and I am grateful to all the family and friends who have supported me along the way. I am a happy person and prefer smiles and a positive attitude to anything else. My mind is sound, but I fear my brain is outliving my body.”

White, an only child, was born in 1910 when her father was 51 and her mother was 36.

“My father was born in 1859, and worked for the railroad as a young man,” she said. “After he married in 1897, my parents ran a mercantile general store in Logan, Mo. About 1905, they moved to Basin, Wyo. where they also ran a mercantile. … They had been told they could not have children, so I was quite a surprise. We vacationed in Yellowstone Park in a covered wagon when I was 2 years old. We lived in Basin until I was 7, and I have fond memories of my early childhood, the store we lived behind, and friends I had there.”

In 1915, they visited Atascadero in California, to view property her parents had purchased from an advertisement seen in E. G. Lewis’ Women’s National Magazine. The property included orchard and a house site in town. She remembers rows and rows of tents in the newly developing city where people could stay while choosing their sites.

Besides visiting Atascadero, she said they attended the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

“I was 5 years old, but can still remember the Tower of Jewels and the beautiful architecture of the buildings built for this world’s fair,” she said.

In 1918, they moved to Atascadero hoping to live off the income from the prune orchards they planted on two plots of land. That plan failed, so her father became a gardener for the high school and also drove a school bus.

From 1932 to 1934, her father partnered with another man in prospecting for gold in Cool. This enterprise ended when the partner lost his sight in a mining accident.

“I attended the Atascadero elementary school,” she said. “When some kids saw me running to school they yelled out, ‘She’s so skinny she looks like a mosquito.’ The nickname ‘Skeeter’ stuck.”

She attended Woodbury Business College in Los Angeles for two years after graduating from high school in 1928.

She was married in 1939 to her husband John White.

“It was a great marriage, and we were able to travel two weeks each summer and more extensively during the four years of retirement before John died (in 1978). I always wanted to see Australia and New Zealand, but I did not make it there,” she said.

When she turned 75 in 1985, White moved to Folsom to be closer to her younger daughter’s family.

“I bought a mobile home in Lake Park Estates across from Folsom Dam,” she said.

After turning 90 in 2000, she decided it was time to give up driving.

“I learned to drive when I was 12 years old and always enjoyed it,” she said. “I had to take a behind the wheel exam when I was 88, so the DMV could see how I was compensating for my macular degeneration. We drove for almost a half hour – even going out on the freeway. The only two items the examiner faulted me for were stopping a little too far behind the stop signs and moving into the bike lane a bit too soon on a right hand turn. At 90 I did not want to retest so willingly gave up my license.”

Since she would no longer have her car, she chose to move to Creekside Oaks, an unassisted senior retirement center where they have their own bus transportation.

“I no longer had to cook for myself as they have a lovely dining room for residents, and I was treated to weekly housekeeping,” she said. “What more could I ask for? It was grand living with lots of field trips and activities.”

She said heath-wise, she has never smoked or drank to excess.

“I fought and survived diphtheria at age 8 and have had above normal good health all of my life,” she said.

She said during the summer of her 100th year, she was having back spasms and hallucinations that put her in the hospital twice.

“After the second episode, while I was recuperating at Folsom Convalescent Hospital I told my daughters, ‘I can’t take care of myself, by myself, anymore,’ and that I wanted to stay at Folsom Convalescent,” she said. “For my 103rd birthday we had an open house at my daughter’s house and another party at Folsom Convalescent where a bus load from Creekside Oaks came to help me celebrate.”