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News arrow News arrow Local News arrow A ‘tough old bird’ Bea Shimmin turns 102

A ‘tough old bird’ Bea Shimmin turns 102 Print E-mail
Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer   
June 20, 2012 10:19 am

Bea Shimmin, left, plays catch with Mary Baldwin. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
Bea Shimmin, left, plays catch with Mary Baldwin. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
Bea Shimmin’s brother-in-law calls her a tough old bird and Shimmin says it’s a good nickname.

But Stephanie La Torre says the Harbor woman is an inspiration.

“Rock on!” La Torre said. “Be 102.”

Five-score and two. That’s how old Shimmin will be July 5.

Shimmin can often be found playing bingo at Sea View Senior Living Community. Or working on eye-hand coordination by tossing a colorful beach ball with other residents, or calling out when she wins bingo.

“We were throwing a ball around in a circle, and she threw it around and was laughing,” said La Torre, activities director at the facility. “Later, she said, ‘Well, that was fun.’ ”

She was born in Oklahoma, but spent most of her childhood on a farm in Elverta, Calif., north of Sacramento.

She moved to Brookings to be closer to family.

Shimmin was around for both world wars, the Great Depression, the sinking of the Titanic, Prohibition, the construction of the Statue of Liberty, the abduction of Charles Lindbergh’s baby, Amelia Earhart flying across the Atlantic and the enactment of Social Security.

She saw the advent of the airplane, talkies, speakeasies and the advancement of cars, typewriters, radios, television, cell phones.

“Oh, I remember our first phone,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “You had to listen real close. It rang and everyone wanted to know who called. A plane went by and everybody ran outside.”

She met her husband at a dance; her favorite dance, a waltz, preferably one sung by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

“ ‘Three o’clock in the morning, we’ve danced the whole night through,’ ” she sang. “ ‘And daylight soon will be dawning, just one more waltz with you.’ I knew right then he was the man.”

She and Elmer married and reared two boys: Dick and Jack. The two “boys” – the elder is 80 and his brother 74 – and other family members will be in town to celebrate her birthday.

When her husband died after 50 years of marriage, she never remarried.

“I could never find one equal to the one I had,” she said, for a fleeting moment grasping to find his name.

Shimmin admits some memories are elusive after all these years.

“This can only contain so much,” she said, frowning as she tapped her head. “I’m lucky it contains as much as it does.”

But she remembers her high school teacher’s name, and that she had to read the commencement recital when a “bashful” boy shied away at the last minute. Her graduating class comprised six students.

A chicken used to follow her brother everywhere he went, she recalled. And she’s pretty sure she’s never attended a bonfire on the beach – maybe for her upcoming birthday, she said, smiling.

Old black-and-white photos – pictures that are themselves 80 years old – bring back memories of the family’s cabin in Lake Tahoe, weddings, anniversaries, holidays.

“San Francisco – my favorite city in the world,” she said. “And I know; I’ve been everywhere.”

More recent photos – in color, but yellowed with age – are timeless.

They depict grandchildren, great-grandchildren, vacations overseas, barbecues.

“Oh, we had some good times,” she said, frowning as she leafed through the book. “What good is this if I can’t remember who they are? I want to know who they are! Thank goodness I have those books I wrote things down in.”

Sometimes a name will just pop into her head, revealing itself from the vault of decades past.

“Frank!,” she exclaimed. “Frank Smith! That’s my father.”

She doesn’t recall what her father did for a living, but her husband was a teletypewriter installer, a job that required moves all over the West Coast.

She remembers spending time working at the town pool, and where she spent a lot of time swimming.

These days, she spends her time playing bingo and painting and drawing.

She’s got a talent for it, La Torre said, but Shimmin admonishes compliments and calls her hobby “doodling.”

Many of her doodles portray hummingbirds and wildflowers, each drawn with shadow and depth.

As to the question everyone asks? Shimmin advises people to take life as it comes.

“Be happy with it, enjoy it,” she said. “Sometime life is wonderful, sometimes life is hard. So just take it as it comes and be happy.” 

 

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