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Sandy centenarians celebrate century of adventures

Published January 31, 2013 9:22 pm

102-year-old woman's secret to long life: No drinking or smoking, but a bit of coffee.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • Mildred Del'Andrae has lived through the Great Depression, the invention of the Slinky, radio tuners, a modern TV, a man on the moon and hand-held computers.

Her secret to living healthy since 1911 is as simple and genuine as she is. She never drinks or smokes, but she sure likes her coffee.

"I'm pretty darn old," Del'Andrae joked Thursday as she sat back in a chair next to a table of devoured birthday cake at Atria Senior Living in Sandy. "I can't believe I'm that old. Sometimes I will just tell people, 'not me, you must have me confused with somebody else.' "

Centenarians Del'Andrae and Lillian Bukowski earlier this week celebrated birthdays of 102 and 101 years, respectively. The two live independently at the center.

One of Del'Andrae's daughters, Debbie Harmer, of Cottonwood Heights, said her mom has been a unique and kind example all her life.

"She never was a gossiping type," Harmer said. "She never took sides, she was always there to comfort others."

Now with a five-generation family of four children, 55 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and 22 great-great-grandchildren, Del'Andrae's family is taking care of her. Her favorite part of life now is seeing all her "new babies."

To keep spry, she likes to be a social butterfly. After outliving two husbands, she still is one to keep an eye out for a good fellow.

"There was a guy that I saw earlier when we were dancing, and I danced with him before," Del'Andrae said shyly, as her eyes peered around the room. "I saw him. He is a big, tall handsome boy."

Her daughter said Del'Andrae's interest was a worker at the facility, a man named Andrew. She is hoping he asks her to dance again. Her other daughter, Lynda Maddera, said her mom loves shoes, likes a well-set table and is "a wonderful dancer."

Del'Andrae worked at the postal telegraph office as a young woman. Now she watches as her great-great grandchildren play with smartphones.

A Salt Lake County native, she worked for about 20 years at the Department of Vital Statistics until the office made her retire when she was 65.

"I'd like to go back, but they say 'no,' " Del'Andrae said as she fiddled with a corsage strapped to her wrist.

She is not one to quit or slow down. She rode a camel in Egypt at the age of 80, and didn't stop driving until she was 98, when her children took her keys away.

"She is really mad we took her car away," Harmer said.

Bukowski fell two weeks ago, so she was not able to attend the birthday party festivities to honor the two women along with an annual appreciation event for the center's residents. Bukowski was born in Kiel, a city in northern Germany. She immigrated to the U.S. at 17. She married, traveled around the world and held jobs in a toy store and deli.

cimaron@sltrib.com

Twitter:@CimCity