by Mitch Lehman
Most can’t remember what they learned about World War II. Former San Marino resident Sally Mitchell lived through it.
Dubbed ‘Super Sally’ by family and friends alike – and if there is a more deserving recipient of that moniker I want to see him, her or even it – Mitchell will celebrate her 110th birthday on Tuesday, November 25, the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, who only lived to see 90, by the way.
The soon-to-be supercentenarian – the tag for an individual who has reached their 110th birthday – currently resides at Irvine Cottages, an assisted-living facility that specializes in providing memory care.
At the age of 110, Sally has retained a high quality of life, according to the facility.
Selma “Sally” Mitchell was born on November 25, 1904 – the same year as the third Olympic Games in St. Louis. She grew up on a farm in Pentwater, Michigan with her five siblings. After graduating high school, Sally attended the Ferris Institute – known today as Ferris State University – at a time when less than eight percent of women in the United States sought higher education.
After earning her business degree, Sally moved to California in 1922 to care for her brother who suffered an injury in World War I. She came to the Golden State by way of the El Capitan passenger train, and she cites “waking up to the smell of orange trees” as one of her favorite memories.
Sally secured a job with AT&T as a secretarial assistant. The job would provide more than just a paycheck, as it brought Howard Mitchell into her life, who would become her husband of sixty-seven years. Howard and Sally had one child, Suzanne, and the family settled in San Marino.
Once married, Howard and Sally built homes The family lived on Homet Road and El Molino Place.
Attempting to quantify the length of Sally’s life becomes even more astonishing considering that gerontology researchers have currently verified only seventy-five individuals who have reached the age of 110 in the world. Even more remarkable is the fact that Sally shows no sign of dementia or other memory-related illnesses.
Dr. Jacqueline Dupont, a gerontologist and founder of Irvine Cottages, describes Sally’s mental health as “extraordinary for her age.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, age is the most significant risk factor for dementia and Individuals 85 years or older have a 50 percent chance of developing the mental disease – and the risk factor increases every year.
Sally’s only child, Suzanne, attributes her mother’s longevity to “living a stress-free lifestyle.”
Suzanne describes her mother as “more of a reactor than an actor,” meaning that Sally has chosen to never stress about things outside of her control. Sally’s aversion to stress has preserved her physical and mental wellbeing for over a century.
“And my mother loved the San Marino Tribune,” Suzanne continued. “She was good friends with one of your columnists.”