Oklahoma native and now Hendersonville resident Genevieve “Ginny” McCalla will turn 100 on July 15.
She said has seen a lot of changes over the years that includes the Great Depression, World War II, the innovation of television, and the birth of Rock’n’Roll.
“I liked the movies with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers,” she said, adding that other favorites included singer Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, and James Brown, among many others.
“I saw Carol Burnett perform at The Ryman, and I even got to go back stage,” she said.
She was the youngest of five children and her three brothers insisted on teasing her when she would get a phone call by yelling, “Baby - it’s for you!”
She remembers that her mother was very compassionate for all people, citing that as a good example for her to follow.
“She played the piano and even taught piano, and she taught my brothers and sister to play,” Ginny said. “But she was getting tired of teaching piano so she encouraged me to play the violin.”
Ginny went on to play violin in her college orchestra and later on was also invited to play with the Oklahoma City symphony.
“But at that time I was a homemaker with young children and a husband who traveled,” she said.
One of her favorite memories as a little girl involved visits to see her Aunt Myrtle.
“She had chickens, and I’d be walking next door to see her, and that rooster would head straight for me,” she said. “I’d start screaming for my aunt, and she’d shoo the rooster away.”
But among her favorite memories is her 57 years of marriage to love of her life, her husband Charles, who she met when he was a student at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University).
But her first impression was a little shaky.
“I was working as a secretary at the college, and he was a ROTC student and had just returned from the war,” she said. “He was working on his Bachelor’s degree in the school of Agriculture. Charles asked me on a date; and I turned him down. I didn’t want to date a poor farm boy!”
But in 1948 the two tied the knot.
Our first apartment did not have hot water,” she said. “So we had to boil it for baths and for coffee and cooking and other things.”
The couple had three children, Dianne who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., Chuck who lives in Seattle, Wash. and Stacy who lives in Hendersonville.
Stacy, who helped with the interview, shared a sweet memory of her Mom and Dad.
“Our dad called Mom ‘the Queen’ and it stuck with all of us,” she said, “That’s part of the reason you’d see a tiara if you looked at her 99th birthday picture, because the Queen still reigns! Dad would normally go to the barber on Saturday, then to the florist for a small arrangement of fresh flowers. She always had fresh flowers from Dad.”
As for any advice for young women today on having a successful marriage, Ginny was did not mince any words – “Learn to cook!”
She also has a playful side that can at times become downright seriously silly.
In her dormitory at the women’s college she attended, there was a blackboard that functioned as a message center. So, one Thursday night she scribbled a message for everybody on the blackboard which read: No Friday classes.
When she pondered some of the things she is most thankful for, Ginny got right to the point.
“My parents insisted of good character and the advantage that gave me growing up but living it out day by day – for that, I am very appreciative,” said Stacy.
Reflecting on the big 1-0-0, Ginny was quite candid about being a bit surprised.
“It just kind of slipped up on,” she said. “Others made a big to-do, and I know a lot will follow.”
A parenting tip that she offered is that children learn from patience and character which naturally leads to being good and kind.
Among Ginny’s list of favorites are: Shipley Donuts, antiquing, estate sales, garage sales, costume jewelry (likes to look not buy), going out to eat, shopping, family dinners, and puzzles.
As for heroes, she cited former president Dwight D. Eisenhower and Helen Keller.
She is also impressed by St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, which she visited during a wait for a flight connection to Oklahoma City. Her daughter, Stacy, drove to Memphis for the tour.
“Mom helps with a women’s ministry on the fourth Sunday of the month,” added Stacy, adding that her mother loves to travel.
For her 90th birthday she went to New York City and saw the Empire State Building, Carnegie Hall, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square.
As for travel, she would like to go to Boston and Philadelphia, as well as Russia and Italy, and she has traveled to London, Paris, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
Ginny also likes spending time with her children and grandchildren.
She misses driving because she really loved being independent.
She admits that shopping is something she always looks forward to.
“I love to go to Goodwill on the first Saturday,” she said. “I never buy anything.”
Other favorite shopping stops are at Walgreen’s, Dollar General, and Stein Mart.
Her life as a resident of The Hearth at Hendersonville has been very rewarding.
“I don’t have to work,” she said. “No cooking and cleaning.”
She shared what she believes to be the secret of a long, happy life.
“Eat right, do not abuse the body, no over-drinking, get plenty of sleep and have patience,” she said.
Among the perks of approaching 100 years old, she received a Proclamation from The State of Tennessee.
Stacy admits to having learned many great lessons from her mother.
“She taught me to encourage your kids,” Stacy said, adding that she has a natural way of encouraging the positives in everyone.
Amy Wilson, assistant activity director at The Hearth at Hendersonville, shared her thoughts on Ginny McCalla, as Ginny and Stacy went to get coffee.
“She is sharp as a tack,” said Wilson. “She comes to exercise every morning with us. Has a great sense of humor like no other. Feisty and a real all-around sweetheart. I asked her the other day if she liked her breakfast, and she said – Well, it’s here, and it’s half gone, so it must be okay. She calls her walker – her little buggy.”
Ginny said when she looks at her three children it makes her feel good and very proud.
“Not a one gave me any problem – good behavior came naturally,” she said. “Dianne as a single Mom has made me proud, and she’s done a great job.”
Genevieve “Ginny” McCalla makes it clear that the bottom line for having a happy, full life is to have faith, extend grace, care for others, laugh a little, and never stop loving and encouraging others to bring their very best wherever they may go.