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Local centenarians recall the good, and not so good, old days

Citizen Staff Writer



What do you get when you mix 50 folks ages 99 through 106 for 90 minutes to reminisce and schmooze?

One heck of a party.

Pima Council on Aging’s 22nd annual Salute to Centenarians was planned for Friday morning at Tucson Medical Center, just in time to kick off May as Older Americans Month. We chose three of the honorees to profile.

Dorothy Kruppenbacher

Born Feb. 25, 1909

Anyone wishing to catch a word with Dorothy Kruppenbacher has to first catch Kruppenbacher.

That is not an easy task. If the 100-year-old Brooklyn-born beauty is not in the middle of a trip back to New York City, she may be heading to California for the weekend.

She’s been to Italy, England, Australia, France and all the Scandinavian countries, and just returned from Florida last week.

“I like to travel,” she said, “and I’ll do it as long as I can.”

Her favorite stop was probably Germany because her parents were born there, but she falls in love with most every place she meets.

“I loved living in Cape Cod,” she recalled.

Constantly being on the go may have helped Kruppenbacher stay so young at heart, but she quickly revealed another secret of her longevity.

“Having six children,” she said with a laugh. “I’m glad I made it.”

Her oldest child is a 77-year-old daughter. Her youngest is a 60-year-old daughter with whom she lives. Four sons came in between.

“My children have been very good to me,” said Kruppenbacher, who is also grandmother to 14 and great-grandmother to 18.

“I love to take care of little children. I love just watching them now, as old as I am,” she said. “When they come to visit, the children always talk to me. They’re so cute, honestly.”

Kruppenbacher treats her family as well as she treats herself.

In fact, she was on her way out the door Wednesday afternoon with her daughter Diane Jackson to her nail appointment.

“She’s an amazing woman,” Jackson said. “For a lot of people she’s a role model.”

Walter Michael Sr.

Born June 25, 1907

Walter Michael has had many notable moments in his 101 years, including hanging out with a murderer.

The killer was Winnie Ruth Judd, who shot her two roommates. She disposed of the bodies by shoving them into steamer trunks, dismembering one of the bodies in the process.

Michael first ran into Judd when he was chairman of the Arizona Board of Pardons and Paroles and denied her parole in 1969.

She was released from prison two years later yet kept in touch with Michael.

“She was the sweetest, kindest old lady you ever saw,” he said. “I sent her back to prison and she loved me ever since.”

Judd even called him the day before she died in 1998, asking him to pay her a visit in Phoenix.

“I think she wanted to tell me secrets she had,” he said, perhaps who helped her chop up the body. “I’m always sorry I didn’t go.”

Other notable moments during his 75 years as member of the Tennessee Bar Association include sitting in on the Scopes Monkey Trial and watching a 1919 Tennessee vote act as a tie breaker for a deadlocked national vote regarding women’s suffrage.

Michael met Annie Pope at a bridge game and married her in 1941. They moved to Arizona for their son’s health after their first child died of cystic fibrosis at 18 months.

Michael said there is no secret to longevity – “I was not a virtuous person” – but does say that not smoking or drinking has surely helped. “With a good heart and liver, you can get around pretty well physically.”

The biggest change he’s noted in the last century is not necessarily a change for the better.

“We’re becoming more savage,” he said of the human race. “We’re not big enough to police and tame the world.”

Carmen Amado Acevedo

Born Jan. 2, 1909

Carmen Amado Acevedo’s biggest life-changing moment happened 89 years ago, but she remembers it as if it were yesterday.

When Acevedo was 11, her mom was the victim in the first recorded motor vehicle fatality in Arizona.

“No one ever told us she was dead,” Acevedo recalled. “We went to town thinking we were going to take care of her.”

She and her six siblings found out otherwise when their aunt told them the real story.

Her mother’s death prompted the family’s move from their ranch in Amado, which bears their name, to Tucson.

Acevedo and her cousin were fixtures on the social scene, often cruising Congress Street looking for friends.

“We had a lot of fun,” she said. “We all got together and had ice cream.”

They also frequented the Blue Moon Ballroom, a popular dance hall from its opening in 1920 until it burnt down in 1947.

She even met her husband, Cornelia Acevedo, there. Actually, she first met him when she and her cousin were strolling along Congress and he drove by in a Packard.

“Driving a Packard was really something at the time,” she said. He asked her cousin to come dance and added, “Bring her, too.”

Cornelia ended up dancing with the cousin once and Carmen the rest of the night. They married four years later and stayed together until his death in 1973. They had one daughter.

A matter-of-fact attitude and a few basic necessities help keep Acevedo going.

“I live my life the best I can and that’s it,” said Acevedo, who still does her own gardening, takes frequent outings and can’t stand sitting around. “You need a smile, a hug and a laugh every day,” she advised. “Life is too short, but mine is long.”

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