by Carole Verona
Maudie Pickett, who celebrated her 100th birthday Sept. 28 at Cathedral Village in upper Roxborough, where she lives, was born in Risley, Oregon, a small town that no longer exists. When she was a baby, the family moved to Portland, where her father, a blacksmith, worked in the shipyards during World War 1.
At one point, the family relocated to Rupert, Idaho, where Maudie studied in a one-room schoolhouse. She later studied for a year at a college in Pocatello, Idaho, a town made famous by Judy Garland in the song “Born in a Trunk” from the movie “A Star Is Born.” Maudie continued her education at a teacher’s college in Albion, Idaho, and graduated in 1935. She taught for two years in that same one-room schoolhouse in Rupert that she attended as a child. She also taught in the towns of Declo and Twin Falls, Idaho.
During her time in Declo, she met the man who would become her husband. “I fell in love with Pat while we were dancing. He was such a smooth, good dancer, so we danced and danced and danced,” she said.
“At that time, teachers weren’t permitted to be married. But Pat and I got married anyway on New Year’s. We had to keep it a secret because if they had known I was married, I couldn’t have taught.” So, Maudie and Pat kept their marriage a secret from their family and friends for 15 months.
“At that time, my husband was living at home with his family, and we just visited back and forth. Then I was pregnant. I had to tell, and I had to quit teaching. I made Pat go with me to tell my folks, but I didn’t let him go in with me. He waited outside. I went in and sat down, and I think I was crying.
“In those days, if you were pregnant, they said you were in trouble. My dad asked, ‘Maudie, are you in trouble?’ I said, ‘Yes, but I’m married!’ Their reaction was pretty good; they took it well. My dad immediately gave my husband a job and let us use his pick-up truck. He had a meat market at that time, so he furnished us with most of our groceries and gave Pat $20 a week,” she said.
This was years before the women’s lib movement, so did Maudie realize that she was ahead of the times? “Not really. I was very placid. I didn’t get upset and get into politics like I do now. I do remember when women got suffrage, and I was proud of that lady from Montana,” she said, referring to Jeannette Pickering Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress in 1916.
When Maudie retired from teaching in 1975, the couple settled in Moses Lake, Washington, where they lived until Pat died 15 years ago. Maudie then went to Seattle and lived in a retirement home. When her daughter Patricia died almost nine years ago, she moved to Cathedral Village.
She remembers when her son Curtis, now a 78-year-old Bryn Mawr resident, said, “It’s my children’s turn to have a grandmother living nearby.” He took her to look at Cathedral Village, and as soon as she got home, she called him and told him to reserve it. Maudie has three grandchildren here, three on the west coast and 10 great grandchildren.
At Cathedral Village, she plays bridge and likes to read lots of books, Most recently, she finished “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI” and “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.” Heady stuff, but she said she also reads her share of “trashy novels.”
What’s Maudie’s secret to living to 100? “Choose your parents carefully,” she said. “I haven’t ever been a health nut in any way at all, but I’m sensible in my eating, getting rest and doing exercise.“
When looking back over her 100 years of life, she said, “Everybody has the wars, the Great Depression, FDR and the recovery, the Kennedy assassinations and the World Trade Center. Other than that, the two things I’ve been involved in that were world events were the eruption of Mount. St. Helens — we had about three inches of ash in our hometown — and the building of the Grand Coulee Dam.”
She loves living at Cathedral Village. “I was only here for three days when I felt at home, but that’s a lot ‘me.’ I like people, and I don’t have any trouble making friends. My philosophy is: If there’s something you’re unhappy about, something you don’t like and can do anything about, do it. And if you can’t, then live with it. I don’t sweat the small stuff at all.”
For more information about Cathedral Village, call 215-487-1300 or visit www.cathedralvillage.com.