Gertrude Ness recently joined an exclusive club for which it takes 110 years to gain membership.
In April, she celebrated reaching the age of a century plus a decade, which makes her a supercentenarian.
It’s a rare feat because only one in 1,000 centenarians — people who live to be 100 — make it that far.
Ness’ milestone birthday earned her a home visit on Tuesday from Mayor Paula Devine, who presented her with the key to the city.
One of Ness’ daughters, Jo Ness, and some of her mother’s old friends were there to watch her receive the commendation.
“All my friends are here. Everybody’s here. I guess I’m very fortunate to be alive,” Gertrude Ness said.
She was born on April 22, 1906 — the same year the city of Glendale was incorporated — in rural Milroy, Minn.
Gertrude Ness’ life, so far, has encompassed 19 U.S. presidents, both World Wars and many other historical events.
But she said the one that’s most important to her was motherhood.
“My favorite event in history? I suppose when the girls were born,” Ness said. “That was great, to have daughters. I think that’s perhaps one of the most important times of my life.”
After moving to Southern California in the early 1940s, she worked for decades in education followed by many years of volunteering after retirement.
In 1943, the middle of World War II, Gertrude Ness worked as a riveter on B-17 bombers at the former Lockheed Vega Plant in Burbank. Her friends still affectionately call her Gertie the Riveter, a spin on the iconic Rosie the Riveter character.
As for the secrets to living well past the century mark, Gertrude Ness said what’s worked for her is never smoking or drinking and eating natural food from the farm where she grew up.
Neighbor Efrossini Pilichos, who has lived next door since 1980, comes and visits Gertrude Ness almost every day and said her demeanor has contributed to the longevity.
"[She] is the most genuine person. She has the best heart, never gets upset, nothing really bothers her,” Pilichos said. “She loves everybody.”
Gertrude Ness is also a die-hard Lakers fan, adorning the northwest Glendale home where she’s lived for 65 years with memorabilia of her favorite basketball team.
She still follows the sport and even had thoughts to share about the retirement of Kobe Bryant in April.
“I don’t blame him,” she said. “I guess it was time for him to retire while he’s still in the highlights. He’ll never be forgotten.”
In addition to the key to the city, Devine presented Gertrude Ness with an autographed photo of Kobe Bryant.
“What an honor to just be in her presence at this age,” Mayor Devine said. “She was so polite and so articulate.”
Daughter Jo Ness said she’s lucky to not only have a mother living much longer than most people, but she’s fortunate to be a part of a relationship that’s been healthy throughout the many years.
Between Jo Ness’ visits, her neighbors popping in and a caretaker, there are plenty of people around to keep Glendale’s oldest resident company.
“I brag about [my mom] all the time to strangers and then, of course, all of our friends always want to know how she is,” Jo Ness said. “Everybody keeps track of her.”
Arin Mikailian, firstname.lastname@example.org