Marge Schmidt joined friends for lunch at Azalea Gardens in Brookings Saturday to celebrate her 104th birthday.
“Wow is right,” she said with a big grin and sipping her favorite drink, a margarita. “It sounds so old. One hundred and four. I can’t believe it, but it is. Time comes on so fast; it’s amazing. I can’t be that old, but I am.”
Schmidt easily gets out of her recliner chair to join others in the dining hall. Her mind is sharp; her sense of humor intact.
Ten decades ago
When Schmidt was born, April 4, 1915, Woodrow Wilson was president, the first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was put into place, Mount Lassen erupted, the Supreme Court ruled that literacy tests were unconstitutional as a basis for voting — but the House of Representatives still rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote.
A German submarine bombed the Lusitania, a phone connection from New York to San Francisco — again Bell and Watson — marked the first transnational communication, Ford cranked out its millionth Model T, and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened in San Francisco.
And in Cleveland, Ohio, Marjorie Trump — no relation to the president, she said — was born.
Marge stayed in the Cleveland area with her parents and two sisters and pursued typing as her major course of study in high school. She was a general typist for a year until a promotion into the internal Western Union division of the company. It was there, at age 28, that she met her soon-to-be husband Antony Schmidt.
“We’d go fishing, bowling; that was about the extent of my romance with him,” she told the Pilot on her 102nd birthday. Antony’s father, however, inadvertently pushed that romance along, when he ordered his son to join him in Catalina Island, California.
“He (Antony) said, ‘How’d you like to come? We’ll get married…’” Marge recalled. “I didn’t know anything of his family, but I thought, I’m not getting any younger — and it would be the only chance I’d get to see Catalina.”
The two were wed three months later.
The couple lived on the island for two years, mingling only with other military families as Catalina was closed to the public for the duration of the war. But there were dances and music — Guy Lombardo and Bob Hope among them — and the birth of their daughter, Dianne.
After the war, the couple moved to Palos Verdes, California, and bought their first house for about $18,000. Today, the median price of a home there is $1.296 million.
“It was very reasonable to live there at that time,” Schmidt said. “But it started to get very, very busy. And my husband said, when it takes me 45 minutes to go 15 miles, let’s sell our place while we still can have a good thing.”
Memories come and go and come again but she distinctly remembers it being 1960 when Antony enrolled with the U.S. Aid for International Development and traveled to India to teach electronics at a college in Calcutta. Marge joined him the following year — making what she called her first of two round-the-world trips; the couple returned via Italy, Germany and Denmark.
“There were times I thought I can’t make it another minute; I got to get home,” she said of the intestinal “Dehli-Belly” that inflicted many visitors. “But once I recovered, I just loved it. We met some of the most wonderful, well-educated Indians.”
The family moved to Brookings in 1975, where they spent 19 years in town. The elder Antony worked as a water inspector while she reared their children.
The couple later sold their home to friends — on a handshake agreement — and relocated in a house on East Harris Heights, living there for 22 years.
Marge worked three months a year in the lily fields in Harbor, she said, preparing bulbs for sale.
Her husband, siblings and two of her three children — Antony Jr. and Dianne — have passed away, and it was only three years ago that Marge decided to sell her home in north Brookings and move to Azalea Gardens. Even then, she only moved to put her son, Wayne’s, mind at ease.
“I’m perfectly fine,” she said, stating the obvious. “The only thing that sets me apart here is I don’t need any support to walk. Wayne got me a cane; I don’t like it at all. I use it to hook down things like clothes. It’s a good fishing thing.”
Marge has short, wavy salt-and-pepper hair — by far, mostly pepper — and confidently shuffles throughout her apartment like someone 20 years her junior, if not more.
Her secret is “just kind of laying back and letting the world go by,” she said, adding she hasn’t had major setbacks in life. “I’m fortunate enough to have had good enough health.
“I have a good life,” she said, smiling again. “Overall, tremendous. Everything always seemed to fall into place.”
She dug into her birthday cake, smiling. Her son was due to pick her up and take her to her favorite restaurant, Pancho’s, for her favorite beverage: A margarita.