Nonstop 90-year-olds

Nonstop 90-year-olds

October 2nd, 2012 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Reflected in a dining room mirror playing cards are, clockwise, from left, Mickey Jones, Frances Fuller, Cyrilla Curtis and Covie Moore.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Every week for 30 years, a group of friends has met to play cards.

Although that's quite a record, what makes this foursome unusual is their game of choice, Skip-Bo, and that they show no signs of slowing down despite their ages.

Cyrilla Curtis is 96. Covie Moore will be 94 this month. Frances Fuller is 92, and Mickey Jones is 88.

"She's the baby of the crowd," Curtis quips.

"We started out with two tables, a total of eight women," recalls Fuller. "We lost four and replaced them, then we lost that four. Mickey, Covie and myself are the original ones, and Cyrilla joined us when she moved here in 1995."

They giggle like schoolgirls as they share stories and crack jokes. Age may have wrinkled their hands, but it hasn't affected their wit. Their optimistic personalities are the epitome of the adage that age is mind over matter: If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

They all still live in their own homes -- no assisted living for these girls. Fuller is adept at computer use and enjoys adding new friends on Facebook.

Three of them still drive. They are all members of the same Sunday school class at Silverdale Baptist Church, where their attendance is so dependable that the three who drive have a "valet service" waiting to park their cars for them on Sunday mornings.

The four are still mentally and physically fit. "Shuffle" only applies to the flutter of cards as Curtis prepares to deal their next hand.

In both life and cards, these women have been dealt good and bad hands. But they're quick to say the friendship they formed over the card table has seen them through it all. They've been there for each other to celebrate marriages and mourn the burials of their children. They've grieved the loss of spouses together.

"Mom's always told me to be good to my girlfriends and take care of them, because you usually outlive your husband. They have, and they are still together," said Fuller's daughter, Becky Hansard.

Hansard added the senior foursome's example led to her friends starting a card group two months ago.

The women say that staying active has kept them young.

They traveled together on church senior-adult trips well into their 80s. Over those 20 years, they visited locales from Branson, Mo., to the Bahamas. At age 84, Fuller and Moore participated in a mission trip into the Appalachian Mountains to lead vacation Bible school for children.

Through last year, the foursome volunteered at Silverdale's vacation Bible school, where every day they made sandwiches for 100 inner-city kids who were bused to the church. The women were also weekly volunteers at Silverdale Academy for years, according to Hansard.

"They just keep going, they always stay active and have never given up and just sat," said Eddie Wilson, the church's minister of senior adults.

"Their positive attitude keeps them going. They are never negative, that's what I admire about them, especially at their ages and knowing the things they've been through," he said.

Q: Will you share a synopsis of your life?

Curtis: "I grew up in the wilds of Montana, in the northwest corner of Montana. My family was homesteaders. There were no cities; we were up in mountains 7.5 miles from the small town of Rexford. The biggest town to where we lived was Great Falls.

"There were six of us, and we played all kinds of card games growing up. We made our own entertainment. They'd flood a field so we would have a place to ice skate.

"My mother was a schoolteacher, so she taught my sister and I to read and write. As a teenager, I went out and did housework for $10 a month. During World War II, I worked in a bakery."

When she became a divorced, single mom, Curtis said she went back to work to support herself and son.

"I worked at The Presidio in San Francisco for 21 years, took early retirement from that and moved to Sacramento Valley. I worked there for eight years as a pastor's secretary then moved here in 1995 to be near my family."

Fuller: "I'm from Taft, Tenn., in Lincoln County. I graduated from high school in 1938 and came to Nashville to attend business college. It was during the Depression, and I stayed in the home of a doctor and his wife. They were the most wonderful people I've ever known. She's now 88, and we still correspond through Facebook."

Fuller said that after marrying and moving to Chattanooga she raised six children, then went to work full-time in 1968 in a lab at the TNT plant during the Vietnam War. She later worked in a nursing home.

"When I worked at a nursing home, I was the only one who could take dictation. I started out there as an aide, because at that time you couldn't get in the office (to work) unless you started out as an aide and qualified for an office job. I worked in the office there until I was 78."

Fuller said she actually retired at 61 but was so unhappy, because she loved working at the nursing home, that she went back for 17 more years.

Jones: "I'm from Union City, Tenn. I left home when I was 14 years old. I didn't know where I was going to sleep or eat. My sister found me a job as a housekeeper for a woman whose husband was in prison. I kept house for her in Union City and took care of her three children.

"I had little education. I had a rough road, and I was on my own."

When her employer's husband was released from prison, Jones found employment in a hamburger stand that had been installed within a trailer. Those months in the trailer's kitchen prepared her for the career she found at Krystal, where she worked several decades, she said.

After marrying and raising four children, she went back to work. She was employed by Erlanger, where she was Central Tray Service supervisor.

She and her late husband, B.F. Jones, were married more than 40 years and co-owned B.F. Floorcoverings.

Moore: A native of Sparta, Tenn., Moore said she found work caring for babies as a teenager. She moved to Chattanooga in 1952, where she joined Silverdale Baptist Church and has remained a member for 60 years.

Her husband worked for Vulcan, and she worked at Hamilton County Nursing Home for 26 years.

Moore is well-known in softball circles for her wicked left-handed pitching. She played on the Silverdale church team for 45 years, not retiring until age 67. In her later years, she and her granddaughter played on the same teams.

"We won almost all our games," she said.

Q: To what do you attribute your longevity, and what keeps you going?

Curtis: "It's only by the grace of God that I feel I'm here. I had to get out and work, I had to support myself. Praise the Lord, he's been watching over me and helping me every step of the way."

Fuller: "My family. I raised six children, and I still cook dinner every Thursday night for the whole family (anywhere from eight to 20 attend). I'm also an avid reader. I just finished reading 'The Help,' and now I'm reading 'Unto These Hills.' It's written by the first boy I had a date with."

Moore: "It's because I'm from a big family. I had 21 brothers and sisters, and that kept us going. (Her father had three wives, she explained.) My daddy had a 180-acre farm and raised everything we ate from meat to vegetables."

Jones: "I think it's my friendly church and my church involvement. There's nobody there I don't love, but these ladies are my family."