The year Edna Minger was born, Woodrow Wilson was president, the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine during World War I, Hollywood’s first blockbuster hit, “The Birth of a Nation,” was released, and a first-class stamp cost 2 cents.
The Spanish flu and the Great Depression had not yet hit, and Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” had not yet decided to buy the flowers herself.
Edna, who celebrated her 105th birthday this month, has seen plenty in her days — women getting voting rights, the discovery of penicillin, the first jet airplane taking flight, the first man on the moon, the first computer and much more.
“I never expected to be 100 — my mother was only 91,” said the Chandler centenarian, whose good humor, sweet disposition and memory are as impressive as her longevity. “I just keep going.”
Edna was born on Oct. 11, 1915, in Philip, S.D., one of eight children, including Eloise, her sole surviving sibling, age 100.
Edna learned to play the piano at 8 and eventually worked as a church organist.
The Class of 1933 valedictorian at Philip High School, she used an old book about a man who made hammers to craft her graduation address.
“I don’t think anyone remembered my speech,” she said.
Edna’s musical skills were quite memorable, however, especially to John Minger, the young managing editor of Philip’s weekly newspaper. He was a baritone soloist at his church and needed an accompanist.
They married in 1938 in Kansas City, and later lived in Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma, where they owned and operated a small newspaper in Tipton. As “society editor,” Edna wrote local news while raising their two children and playing the organ at church.
She became a wonderful gardener and was president of the local garden club, in addition to working as a secretary at Altus Air Force Base.
John died in 1990, and Edna moved in 2007 to Westchester Senior Living in Tempe to be nearer her daughter, Sarah Auffret. She also has a son, John, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
At Westchester, Edna assumed responsibility for the community’s flower garden and acted as official greeter.
“When people came to live there, I would make an effort to welcome them like when I was at the newspaper,” she said.
Edna also is a member at Dayspring United Methodist Church in Tempe, where she met Jan Hiskett several years ago. The women introduced themselves in a pew, and Jan told Edna that her own mother shared her first name.
“She became my church mom,” said Hiskett of Chandler. “She is a beautiful soul. Knowing her has strengthened my faith, and that’s a wonderful gift.”
Edna suffered a stroke three years ago, and now lives in a small group home in Chandler where she is grateful for the good care. COVID-19 has been isolating because she no longer can attend church in person, nor art lectures or Bingo games at Westchester.
But she still reads the daily newspaper, writes notes to friends and occasionally plays a keyboard in her home.
The secrets to her longevity are good genes, gardening, a walk and some dark chocolate every day and her strong faith. She loves Italian food, but eschews “smoked meats and too much grease,” and has never been too interested in alcohol.
No doubt Edna could come up with 105 reasons to keep living. We’ll settle for five of her favorite things:
- Christmas song: “There’s a Star in the Sky.”
- Book genre: history.
- Color to wear: blue.
- Season: fall.
- Ice cream: dark chocolate. Of course.