‘She’s a tough gal’

104-year-old res­i­dent still strong and healthy

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

In 1912, the Ti­tanic sank, Woodrow Wil­son won the United States pres­i­dency and Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gave 3,000 cherry blos­som trees for plant­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. In that same year, one of Charles County’s old­est ci­ti­zens was born. Eleanore Ann Gard­ner cel­e­brated her 104th birth­day on Sept. 20, and she said she feels great.

“I promised her last year that the county would rec­og­nize her birth­day ev­ery year, as long as I am a com­mis­sioner,” said Charles County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D). “She will no doubt out­last me.”

Eleanore was born in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in 1912 to a banker (her fa­ther) and a dis­trict build­ing em­ployee (her mother). She grew up to be­come a sec­re­tary/ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant and of­fice man­ager at var­i­ous com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Na­tional Ge­o­graphic and the col­lege fra­ter­nity Phi Gamma Delta

and its ed­u­ca­tional foun­da­tion, which she helped run for many years. She lived in the dis­trict for 68 years be­fore mov­ing to New­burg.

Eleanore lives with her son, John Wes­ley Gard­ner, 80, and his wife on Bank O’Dee Road. Their fam­ily prop­erty in New­burg dates back to 1870. The farm house has since been re­mod­eled by John and his wife. The prop­erty is uniquely cov­ered in oyster shells and sits closely on Cuck­old Creek, where it meets the Po­tomac River.

“It’s pretty cool hav­ing my mother live this long, and the joke is that she’s prob­a­bly go­ing to out­live us all,” John said.

Eleanore lives a sim­ple life and still has her im­pec­ca­ble sense of hu­mor. She en­joys sit­ting out­side watch­ing the water, trees, birds and lis­ten­ing to the sounds of na­ture. Eleanor also en­joys lis­ten­ing to Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio.

“My wife and I had taken over the house in New­burg while I was work­ing in the mu­sic in­dus­try as a stage direc­tor and tour man­ager with celebri­ties like Frank Si­na­tra, Jimmy Hen­dricks and other leg­endary mu­si­cians,” John said. “So when I came back to the D.C. area, we de­cided to come to Charles County and make this our home.”

Eleanore has out­lived two hus­bands, her sib­lings and most of her own fam­ily mem­bers who lived into their 90s. She re­mem­bers liv­ing through World War I and World War II with her fam­ily, who are of Dutch de­scent. “She’s a tough gal,” John said. She loves liv­ing in Charles County and feels like her cur­rent home is the ideal house she would have built to re­tire in. Eleanore has made some changes in her life such as no longer smok­ing — she stopped at 100 years old — and has since tried to en­joy life on a daily ba­sis.

She said turn­ing 104 feels no dif­fer­ent than be­ing 103 years old.

“At 104 I feel pretty good,” Eleanore said. “I don’t have any aches or pains so I’m re­ally very for­tu­nate. I don’t think I have any­thing to do with why I lived this long. It’s all the man up­stairs. There must be a rea­son for why He has kept me here this long.”

John de­scribes his mother as “de­ter­mined” and dogged about fin­ish­ing a project or achiev­ing a goal.

“She has a great sense of hu­mor and grasps jokes quickly,” John said. “The next great stor y about her is yet to come. Af­ter all, she is only 104 years old.”

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Eleanore Ann Gard­ner, 104, and her son John Gard­ner, 80, at their res­i­dence in New­burg.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Eleanore Ann Gard­ner, 104, sits out­side her New­burg home and en­joys the view of Cuck­old Creek on Sept. 27.

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