Mommy, Oldest


Anita Bogan was in her 70s when she took up golf and started a business. In her 80s, she helped form a nonprofit organization to build the senior housing complex where she now lives. In her 90s, a street was named after her.

And now the California City resident has achieved yet another milestone. At 100, Bogan has become a mother.

In a ceremony in San Pedro, Bogan symbolically adopted two daughters, both in their 60s. The service was conducted by the Rev. Gene Johnson, who had never heard of such a thing.

"Are you sure?" he asked them.

Yes, they were sure.

Cousins Patricia Martin of Hawthorne and Gloria Foreman of Los Angeles were 18 months old when they lost their mothers. Martin's mother died of tuberculosis. Foreman's mother merely left one day never to return.

Bogan was a loving presence in their lives. As youngsters, they spent weekends working in her flower shop at 56th and Avalon. For a brief period, Foreman lived with Bogan, who signed her up for her first piano lesson, took her to school, made her feel loved.

At the time, Bogan was married to Foreman's uncle. The marriage didn't last, and Bogan divorced, remarried and in 1972 moved to California City in the Mojave Desert. Martin and Foreman lost contact with her until about six months ago, when a cousin told them Bogan was still alive.

The women were used to people coming and going from their lives. Their fathers were married five times.

"The wives would leave and take their children with them, so it would just be me and my sister again," said Foreman, now retired from Childrens Hospital, where she was assistant director of medical records.

"I grew up with so many stepmothers, I just never really got attached to them in a mother-daughter relationship."

All these years later, as the three women looked back at their lives, they realized there were lingering voids. Then one day, while Martin was taking a bath, the telephone rang. It was Bogan. A thought entered Martin's head and would not leave.

She told Bogan she wanted to ask her something but would have to call her back. It wasn't something to discuss while sopping wet. Once dry, she made the call.

"Will you adopt me?" she asked.

Bogan chuckled at first. When she realized Martin was serious, she started to cry. Then Martin cried. Then Martin called Foreman, and she cried too.

A Life of Possibilities

For Bogan, becoming a mother so late in life only confirms what she already knows, that anything in life is possible. For her, life has been 100 years of new lessons, new challenges, new possibilities.

She was born on a Sunday morning in Minden, La. When she was 3, her mother died of tuberculosis, the same disease that claimed Bogan's sister at age 18.

Bogan was raised by her father, a Methodist minister who also repaired shoes and built porch swings to support the family. Nine years after her mother's death, her father remarried. Bogan and her stepmother were very close.

At 24, Bogan went to Los Angeles to visit friends. She decided to stay and got a job cleaning apartments. She always held within her a love for flowers.

As a child she would pick "grass daisies" and admire their beauty, so when she discovered she was not fast enough at cleaning apartments, she enrolled in a class on commercial floral design.

She went to work in floral stores and eventually started a business, Anita's Flower Shop, specializing in weddings.

The business thrived until the early 1970s, when Bogan decided to sell and move to California City, "where people are sane."

She planned on retiring but ended up starting another flower shop, which she kept open for 10 years. She also helped start a hospital auxiliary and women's branch of the town's chamber of commerce.

To create affordable housing for seniors, she helped form a nonprofit group that resulted in the creation of Desert Jade, still under construction. When completed, it will include 95 units.

With all her civic work, there still was time in the early morning for her newly discovered passion, golf. Before leg surgery a year ago, she had never had health problems, "not even a headache," she said. She played 18 holes a day, 36 holes some days. She plays less since the surgery.

"She basically pops it down the middle five or six times, flips it up on the green, two putts and she's on her way," said Bob Dacey, golf pro at Tierra Del Sol in California City.

She said she shoots in the 125 range, "not bad for me."

She also loves fishing. She would prefer to catch catfish, "but, I'll fish for anything I can get on a hook."

And gambling. She has been known to work the living daylights out of slot machines. "I like the sounds they make," she said.

She keeps a suitcase packed by the door in case a friend calls and suggests a trip to Nevada.

"Someone will call and ask, 'What are you doing today?' and I'll say, 'Standing in the road waiting for you to pick me up."'

She no longer drives, so her primary mode of transportation around town is a golf cart.

To become a mother, even though it's not a legal adoption, is an honor, she said. She has learned that it is love, not legal papers, that bind, that make a family.

Because so many people marry, divorce, remarry, re-divorce, it can take an entire forest to build a single family tree.

About 50 friends and family members and former family members and neighbors and former neighbors gathered for the ceremony late last month, hosted by Martin's daughter in San Pedro.

The three women stood before the Rev. Johnson, pastor of Power Christian Center, himself adopted. "You have made a decision to join together because of love, and it's an amazing thing," he said.

The three held hands as Johnson declared them mother and daughters.

"Kiss your mother," he told the daughters. And they did.

"Kiss the pastor," he said. And they did that too.

"God is good," Foreman told the gathering.

"I believe I have a mother's love that I missed for so long," Martin said. During the last three years, Martin's aunt and father died. She cared for both of them.

"I thought that growing old meant getting sick and being in a nursing home. I felt that aging was a curse, then Mommy came back into my life."

Bogan is ready for her new role. "This is the greatest thing that has happened to me in my whole lifetime," she said. "What they don't know is that they're going to have to toe the line."

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