“I’m not looking forward to my birthday, but I am looking forward to the party,” said 99-year-old Virginia Williams with a broad smile.
The soon-to-be centenarian is celebrating her birthday with a big party that will bring friends and relatives from far and wide.
The party, scheduled for April 1 at the Westpark Community Center was almost postponed when Howard, her husband of almost 78 years became ill with pneumonia earlier in the month, spending two weeks in Wickenburg hospital. Virginia succumbed to a milder form and was treated for the ailment without hospitalization, although she sat by Howard’s bed every day. Thankfully, he is home recuperating, and Virginia is well.
“It kind of blew my excitement, but it’s better now,” she said.
Virginia and Howard are an unusual couple…both survived long enough to reach 100 together. Howard will be 101 years old in July and last year he was given an award by former Wickenburg Mayor John Cook, an occasion that made the front page of The Sun.
Both originate from California – “a much different place than it is today,” Virginia pointed out matter-of-factly.
She met Howard in a church youth group and the two eventually married. Ironically, the couple became lifelong friends with the other youth group members, each marrying within the group, and staying together for the rest of their lives.
Out of all the couples, Virginia and Howard are the last one remaining.
Determined to be a stay-at-home mother, Virginia raised her four children – Elliot, Donna, Elaine and Lori – before she entered the workforce as a school secretary.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” she exclaimed, adding she was a homeroom mother and even president of the local PTA.
She grins when she speaks of how every child was born while living in a different house. Howard’s work brought him from town to town. While living in Santa Ana, Howard built their house, and they were they only family around with radiant heating.
“My feet were always warm,” said daughter Elaine, who recently traveled from San Diego to be with her parents.
Youngest daughter Donna, from Washington, remembers how she would stretch out on the floor as a child, warming herself on cold mornings.
Both daughters shared memories of their childhood – the most dramatic being the time when the children went off to bed and on her way up the stairs Elaine accidently knocked the valve off of the gas heater, sending the poisonous fumes blowing into the house. Howard noticed it later and immediately called the doctor, as Elaine and Elliot wouldn’t wake up. Elaine remembers the doctor hanging both children out of the window to revive them – something she’ll never forget.
Virginia and Howard began wintering in Arizona, visiting Elliot in Wickenburg and Elaine in southern Arizona. After 10 years they decided to make a permanent move, and settled in Westpark – a place they grew to love.
Virginia said her best recollections are of family, friends and small communities where she’d lived; her children, of whom she is very proud; and the strong faith in God that sustained them through the years.
Elaine remembers the instructions Virginia gave to each of her children and grandchildren. “She said to be happy; do something you like in life; be honest and be kind,” Elaine said.
How did Virginia make it to 100?
“It’s just unbelievable,” she answered. “I think I’ve had a wonderful life, a healthy life. But how did I make it? That’s an answer none of us can give.”