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Springfield woman still going strong as she celebrates 103rd birthday

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 7:03 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2021 at 7:38 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - If you met Theresa Stafford and encountered her delightful personality, hearty laugh, quick wit and sharp mind, you’d probably think she was a woman in her 60′s.

But on Friday, Stafford celebrated her 103rd birthday in the Lodge at Creekside at Elfindale, where she has her own independent living apartment.

“Theresa only uses a walker,” said Creekside Resource Director Whitney Ryker. “She’s very healthy.”

Asked if she feels 103?

“Yeah,” Stafford replied with a laugh. “Every day of it.”

Stafford explained that having to use a walker bothers her but it certainly doesn’t slow her down. As the oldest resident at Creekside Ryker calls Theresa the “VIP” with “a lot of valuable information to give” and when asked how to describe Stafford’s personality?

“Feisty,” Ryker answered.

Need an example?

Well, over 70 years after they went to Fair Grove high school together, Theresa and two of her friends, Wilma West and Pauline Highfill, reunited at Creekside where they all came to live after their husbands had passed away.

“We just reverted back to our high school days,” Stafford said of her group that became known as the life of the party.

The three women would dress up for holidays like Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day and on one infamous occasion wrapped themselves in fake bandages, arm slings and make-up that looked liked bruises to fool their fellow residents and staff.

“They told everybody they were beating one another up,” Ryker said.

“We told ‘em we had a fight with each other,” Stafford said breaking into laughter. “Just to cause a commotion.”

Theresa has lived through two pandemics, the one going on right now and the Spanish Flu of 1918, the year she was born which also marked the end of World War I.

Stafford lost her grandmother to the Spanish Flu but said she’s not worried about her own health now.

“Got my shots,” she said with a smile.

She grew up during the Roaring 20′s although the well-known flapper dresses of the time were not in her repertoire.

“Our mother made us dresses out of feed sacks,” she said. “I lived during the depression.”

The Great Depression of the 1930′s is something Stafford says she thinks about often because of what her family endured.

“My father had our money in the bank and the bank went broke and our money was gone,” she said. “I’ve always remembered that. Daddy said, ‘Well, I’ve heard people stealing nickels off of a dead man’s eyes and they’ve done the same thing to me.’ That was a hard thing to go through.”

Theresa would go on to marry Lowell Stafford in 1937. They had two children, Jack and Marylyn, and lived in a number of places including Fair Grove, Harrison (Arkansas), Stockton and Bolivar. Lowell ran a five-and-ten cent store in Bolivar for many years and he and Theresa were married for 72 years before he passed away in 2008.

“He said he never had thought about leaving me but he had thought about killing me a few times,” Theresa said with a laugh. “But he always treated me well. I loved him with all of my heart and he loved me. But the hardest thing I’ve gone through is losing my son when he was 36 years-old. Yet I have to just forget those things and live for the present.

As to how long the 103 year-old would like to keep on going?

“I’m ready to go now,” she said with a smile. “But I’m going to stay as long as I can. But my time is almost up. I realize that. As long as I’m able I’m O.K. but I just don’t want to lay in bed as an invalid.”

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