102 Years of gratefulness

June 25, 2021

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If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll recognize my friend Jule Moon. We recently celebrated her 102nd birthday, and this is the special story I wrote for AL.com. The photos here are of her birthday party.

 

At 102 years and counting, Jule Moon’s soft drawl melds unhurried Antique Atlanta and sentimental Old Mobile. Ever the wit, she laughs and says, “Ninety to 100 were the most difficult years. It became easier after that.” 

All who meet Jule Moon want to know her secret, for a long healthy life, and more than that, for remaining involved and positive, regardless of whatever trials may come along. She defies the stereotype of sinking and settling into quiet loneliness.

Born in Atlanta in 1919, Jule’s father worked as a manager for a paper mill and was transferred to Mobile when she was 12. In time, she went on to Murphy High, graduating in 1936. The school, she says, was a wonderful place: “I had beautiful smart teachers and courses that prepared me for college. Most important were the activities. I was invited to sing in the choir. I had the female lead in the senior play and fell in love with journalism and became the editor of the high school paper.”

These days, Jule lives independently in Fairhope, assisted in her weekly errands and appointments by helpers and friends. She no longer drives, having voluntarily stopped at 101.

Yet she still takes pride in caring for herself, doing her own cooking for the most part to stay true to her strict dietary standards. 

She’s eliminated red meat and sugar, and praises the results. As evidence, Jule recounts how she bounced back from breast cancer at age 90 and quickly recovered from a heart attack that she suffered the day after her 101st birthday.

“I used to love a good steak when I lived in Texas but decided to give it up and don’t regret it,” she says.

Some culinary pleasures she doesn’t give up, of course.  At a favorite Mexican restaurant, for example, Jule orders the chicken fajita, with grilled peppers and onions. She says that she can sip a cup of hot coffee late at night and still sleep like a rock. “I’ve always been able to do that” she laughs. 

One of her fondest memories from her school days still makes Jule smile, “In 1935, the journalism teacher at Murphy High School arranged for the newspaper staff to attend a convention in New York. We saw and did everything. It was wonderful. We traveled by train and stopped at Mount Vernon on the way home.” 

Thinking for a moment, she adds, “The other trip that made a difference in my life was being invited by a friend’s family to attend the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago. A television was on display. It was about the size of two shoe boxes, and you couldn’t see anything but snow.”

Murphy High School class of 1936 graduation tea. Jule Moon, third from left with friends.

She continues, “I was always fascinated with the West, so after high school I decided to attend the University of Texas. I was enchanted with geology but balanced my studies with the arts. I received a master’s degree in geology, but also became interested in mental health and earned a master’s degree in social work where counseling became my lifelong pursuit.” 

She says, “Since many of the professors had gone to fight in WWII, I stepped up and taught at the university for a few years. Most of my students were veterans and it was a challenge to help them readjust to civilian life.” 

Jule had wanted to go into the military herself but was rejected due to her allergies. Instead, she volunteered to work with veterans in the hospital.

As for the Great Depression, it’s gratefulness that infuses her memories. That can be something of a curve ball to the listener. She explained, “I’m glad I experienced the Depression. It allowed me to see how people coped and worked together and took care of each other. Anybody who came to the door and needed food, my parents fed them. I learned to be frugal and how to find bargains and live within my means. Both the Depression and World War II brought the country together. Everyone had a common goal. It’s not like today where there’s so much rebellion and criticism.”

Eventually, her parents relocated back to Atlanta, and Jule, on a visit, met one of her mother’s friends, literary giant Margaret Mitchell. The story amuses, in Jule’s merry telling: “My mother introduced us, then said, “My daughter also likes to write.” “I almost fainted from embarrassment!” 

 Staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for her. Still, she kept up with the goings-on in the writing and music communities, forging ahead with her poetry and short stories, and publishing a book of her collected works, “Sherds a Memoire.”

Her 102nd birthday party came at the perfect time to fling the doors open and welcome friends she hadn’t seen in over a year. 

Jule credits her parents with much of her mental strength. They were “independent thinkers,” she says. Likewise, “I was encouraged to think for myself and not follow the crowd. My mother’s favorite expression was — Don’t be a sheep.”

As for whatever secret that she wishes to share about getting to age 102, she says, “The secret to living a long fulfilling life is to find something you love to do and do it.” 

She raises her finger in the air. “Do it!” she repeats.

This story first appeared in the AL.com newspapers. 


Leave a Reply

  1. Leslie Anne, how blessed you are to have such an amazing friend! Cheers to 102. A dear friend at 96 confided to me her secret for living well and independently…anything you can do for yourself, do it!

    1. What a great challenge. Do it for yourself. Thanks Roxanne, and I hope you’re having a great summer.

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