Century Farm Woman
Myrtice Coe couldn’t detect the odor that crippled her company at the kitchen table when the men walked in the door. At 102 years old, Myrtice says losing your sense of smell isn’t all bad, such as when the guys stumble upon skunks in the hay barn.
With-it and witty, the local farm woman maintains her hearing and mind, her will to live, her residency on the family farm, and a positive attitude. “You have to be positive,” Myrtice says, because “once you sink down, you’re lost.”
Poor circulation and a knee issue prompted the amputation of her left leg in July 2012. Yet, she participated in a family reunion talent show, in which she stood up and walked with a prosthetic leg at age 99. The avid reader lost her sight about 10 years ago, so she started books on tape and listened to her 2,729th book in October. Her shake and roll of the dice dominates the win category in the long-running household scorebook of Farkle games, often played twice daily.
Myrtice plans to turn 103 on March 4. She grew into a legend in her own lifetime, known for her age and a 50-plus-year career of reporting the news of her small hometown. Born in 1914, her life started with World War I and Babe Ruth’s professional baseball debut. Yet, she lives on a farm older than herself. Around 1840, her late husband’s great-grandparents bought the Peoria County property, today a grain and beef cattle farm. Myrtice leaves the farm every winter to vacation in Florida at her son’s home. She returns in early April to pay her taxes.
Myrtice married Howard in 1939, bore three children and lived 54 years with him in their old farmhouse where he was born upstairs and died downstairs. She sold eggs, cream and butter. She sewed nightgowns made from bleached feed sacks. Across a 3-acre parcel, she grew and canned fruits and vegetables. When Howard died, 80-year-old Myrtice learned to drive – much to her garage wall’s dismay after she ran into it.
The couple loved to travel, and Myrtice touts the interstate system as one of the greatest man-made conveniences of her lifetime. Commercially baked and sliced bread makes her list, too, as does central heat and air conditioning that likely lengthened her life, she says. Myrtice even recognizes the junior college system, which made higher education attainable for more people.
Today, her family and friend caretakers wheel her close to the big-screen TV to watch the news and “Jeopardy.” In nice weather, she takes routine “walks” with her daughter down their country road to the railroad tracks and then back after a wave to a passing train engineer. And she frequently asks her daughter to “Google that” to answer a question or check a fact.
Outside of positivity, Myrtice advises people to care for their teeth “because you need them.” And she predicts some of society’s greatest achievements are yet to come. To that, she grins. “I wish I had it to do all over again with you.”