Elwana Yeary — Enjoying life at 95

By WILLIAM WRIGHT Staff Writer
Posted 7/12/17

When it comes to good company with a kind and charming senior, Elwana Yeary is the cream of the crop.

The 95-year-old widow brings the kind of warmheartedness often associated with the …

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Elwana Yeary — Enjoying life at 95

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When it comes to good company with a kind and charming senior, Elwana Yeary is the cream of the crop.

The 95-year-old widow brings the kind of warmheartedness often associated with the manners of a more gregarious era.

It is, in fact, her social etiquette and craving for good conversation that makes Yeary exceptional in a world where texting and tweeting are becoming as popular as talking, and “connecting with others” has become a social media term. Not for Yeary.

She, instead, wakes up early in the morning, catches a bus and goes to Cleveland’s Senior Center, where she visits with friends — old and new — and connects with people the old-fashioned way — by listening, chatting and sharing pieces of the heart.

“The Senior Center is a good place to go and to be,” Yeary said. “You meet people you can talk with and associate with. The bus picks me up at 7 in the morning. I get up around 5 a.m. to get ready. Sometimes we get here before it opens, but we set on the bus and talk until they open. I stay and eat lunch before I return home. I enjoy being with people, and I like someone to talk to.”

The art of conversation is not wasted on those who take the time to get to know Yeary, a lady with an amusing past and a few life lessons that could make a difference in the lives of those who listen.

When asked her secret to a long and healthy life, Yeary said, “The good Lord has been good to me and I have a lot to be thankful for. That’s the only reason I know why I’ve lived this long. My doctor told me to take B-3 and B-12 vitamins. I take them once a day. I take a blood pressure pill twice a day and I take a stomach pill when I need it for indigestion and that’s it.”

She married her husband, Robert Yeary, when she was age 19. The couple was married 66 years before he passed. Back then in the 1940s Yeary said she worked in the personnel department at Oak Ridge, established as a production site for the Manhattan Project to developed the first atomic bomb.

“We processed all the servicemen that came through out there,” she said. “They built us a house. We lived out there for three years.

“They started cutting back after the war was over. My husband wouldn’t take the cut. He quit and went to work for the city of Harriman, in the water department. I stayed on, working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on the day shift, then Thursday and Friday, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and off every Saturday and Sunday. Then I had my daughter.”

Yeary said that was the last job she ever worked, quitting once her daughter, Virginia, started to school.

“They told me I couldn’t have any more children,” she recalled. “Then 10 years later I proved them wrong. My son, Robert, was born. He lives in Chattanooga. My daughter has been gone five years.”

She said she took a certified nursing assistant course, became a CNA and volunteered at the hospital in Morristown where she and her husband lived for 18 years and he was in charge of the Morristown Water Department. Later, the family moved to Cleveland where Yeary said they lived for the past 52 years.

Yeary remembers when her husband suffered from Alzheimer’s during the last five years of his life.

“Don’t let nobody tell you that’s not a bad disease. The kids would come home and at first he would call them by their names. Then in five minutes he’d look at me and say, ‘Who did you say they were?’ It breaks your heart, but there’s nothing you can do about it. He’s been gone 10 years now.”

Loneliness has been described by many as the most terrible poverty facing millions of people, young and old. Having a strategy to deal with loneliness is recommended as an important protection against depression.

For Yeary, Cleveland’s Senior Center at 230 Urbane Road offers her everything she desires — good company, entertainment, exercise, dining, kindness and one-on-one attention.

Although she admits she does not know all the seniors at the center, Yeary said she still counts them as her friends.

“I enjoy this. I’ve been coming out here for at least 25 or 30 years. I was coming out here before my husband passed away. When he was alive, we went dancing every Friday night or Saturday night. We also belonged to a square-dancing club.”

Yeary has been back at the Senior Center for about a month now, after she suffered her second fall at home. The isolation from her friends was difficult at times, even though she has visitors and family checking in on her.

“When you sit at home for about seven months by yourself, you count the splinters in the doors,” she said, laughing.

“Somebody called me one day and wanted to know what I was doing. I said, ‘Well, I’ve got two doors in my den and now I’m on my second door, counting the splinters!’”

Yeary has never lost her sense of humor and charm. Neither has she lost interest in having fun and making new friends.

To this day, interacting with others, playing bingo at the Senior Center or just talking to reflect and listening to learn are things Yeary still enjoys doing.

“I’ve seen a lot and we’ve been a lot of places,” she said. “And I’ve had a good life. The best thing about being 95 is that I have a lot to thank the Lord for! My dad passed away at 74. My mother was 89 when she died. I have two sisters. Faye is 91, and Martha Ruth is 89. Our brother passed 18 years ago. It does get lonely at times. The days get longer and the nights get longer. I turn the TV on just for the noise. But I still enjoy my life.”

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