Garnett Cobb knows her place in the line.
“I’m next to the baby,” she said.
Maybe, if you can count Rosalie Wolosenka as “the baby.” After all, she’s a mere 100 years and six months old.
Cobb is 101.
But then so is Willie Foster, who lives just a couple of floors away in Mount Vernon Towers. Fellow resident Mable McCleery is 103. And Maxine Brown, who recently was elected Queen of Mount Vernon Towers homecoming and tailgating party, is 104. Brown, by the way, credits her election simply to seniority. “It’s because I’m old,” she said. “I’m the oldest one here.”
The five women don’t all know one another, but they are tied together by place and age. These five centenarians now make their homes in a Sandy Springs high-rise condominium complex where living long is the norm. They’re the oldest in a place where the average age is about 83.
The five arrived at Mount Vernon Towers by very different paths.
Wolosenka grew up in New York and married a New York City policeman. They were together 65 years, she said, until his death at age 90. He’s buried in Connecticut, she said, and “there’s a tombstone [there] waiting for me.”
After New York, she lived in Florida for a while, then settled in metro Atlanta. She came here about a dozen years ago to be closer to a niece. “I’m an ordinary person,” she said. “Even if I am 100, I’m still OK.”
Brown took a reverse route. She grew up in Florida, then lived with her husband in Buffalo, N.Y. They moved to Atlanta for his job and rarely looked back. “I’ve never gone back. Isn’t that terrible?” she said. “I can’t stand that snow.”
Willie Foster, on the other hand, describes herself as “just a pure old country girl.” She grew up on a farm near Alpharetta. “My daddy died before I was born,” she said. She married and her family settled in a yellow house on Belle Isle. She lived there 70 years. Sandy Springs “has changed, hadn’t it?” she said. “It’s a lot different from when I moved up here.”
Mable McCleery was born in a small Georgia town, too. But she didn’t stay in Dublin, Ga., long. Her family moved to Florida and then to Atlanta, where an older brother had settled. “I’m not from long livers,” McCleery said. “My daddy died at 61. Most of the boys died in their 70s.”
She said she and her sister, the elder by five years, were among the first to buy places in Mount Vernon Towers when it opened nearly 25 years ago. They lived on the same hall, just a few doors apart. “She bought the first one and I had the third one,” McCleery said. “Somebody else beat me to the second.”
A quarter century later, Mable lives in a smaller place nearby in the complex, a room she likes because it’s on the sunny side of the building. “I always like to be outside,” she said. “I liked to play golf and things like that, but I’ve outgrown it. But I’m still here. And I get about with only this [cane]. And I’m grateful, Very grateful.”
Know someone interesting in our communities? Joe Earle may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.