Isabelle Woodrow

Isabelle Woodrow

by Carole Verona

Isabelle Woodrow is not comfortable being 100. “I don’t want to be 100,” she insisted, adding that her recent birthday on Aug. 12 made her just “one day older than 99.” She couldn’t understand why everyone was making such a fuss at Cathedral Village, Andorra, where she has lived since 1997. On Friday, Sept. 25, Cathedral Village hosted a special dinner and a flurry of other activities to celebrate Isabelle’s birthday and that of Maudie Pickett, another resident who turned 100 on Sept. 28. Isabelle just wanted to get back to her daily routine and very busy lifestyle.

“I have done just about everything there is to do here at Cathedral Village,” she said. “I have been vice president of the residents organization, worked in the gift shop and served as an elder for the Tuesday service.” She also manages to fit in at least one crossword puzzle a day. Isabelle has even taught a class about survey research, her area of expertise, at Village College, Cathedral Village’s in-house continuing education program taught by residents for residents.

Born in Madison, Connecticut, Isabelle grew up in New York City and graduated from American University in Washington, DC. in 1938 with a degree in economics. She considers this one of her greatest achievements since the Great Depression made it very hard for her to complete her education. She doesn’t remember if there were other women in her class at that time or whether it was unusual back then for women to study economics.

After graduating, she got married, soon realized it was a mistake and got a divorce. At that point, she was wondering what to do with the rest of her life and was thinking of studying law. “I was living in Northern New Jersey, and I saw an ad in the New York Times for a position in Princeton for someone with a degree in economics or mathematics. I had a two-year-old son at that point so it was the Princeton location that interested me. I thought it would be a nice place to bring him up, and that is how it turned out. That’s how I got involved in the business world.”

Isabelle worked for a commercial survey research firm. “It was an interesting position; it was marvelous,” she said. “I was there until 1979; then I left that company and went to work for a former boss of mine who was involved in the same business. I worked there until I retired in 1983, and then I worked as a consultant for a few years.” Isabelle remarried, and her husband Ray also worked in research.

Isabelle’s job involved surveying residential energy consumption under a contract for the Department of Energy. “We had a national sample of homes, and my job was to train interviewers to measure a home and ask questions about all of the fittings. Then we collected information from the electric, gas and oil companies about energy consumption in the home,” she said. The survey teams also collected data about other forms of energy people were using, for example, in their automobiles.

“This was all put into the mix and stirred around. The purpose of the whole thing was to get the data to find out how Congress could pass laws that would extend our energy or solve the problem of our energy, a problem that still exists today,” she explained. When asked what she thinks about today’s energy issues, Isabelle was quick to point out, “When you’re in survey research, you don’t voice opinions. You sit by and ask questions.”

Part of Isabelle’s work involved walking around and seeing that things were being done properly. She remembered this poem that she wrote at the time:

“Whenever I walk to see what’s going on

To see what’s being done and what’s not,

I find the things I remembered were done,

But the things I forgot were forgotten.”

Isabelle said that moving to Cathedral Village in 1997 was a good decision in her life. “It worked out fine. I’ve been well; I have lost friends; I have had disappointments. But when I’ve been ill, there has always been someone here to pick up the pieces.”

Isabelle’s son, David, 72, lives in California and visits often. She has four stepchildren, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

For more information about Cathedral Village, call 215-487-1300 or visit