Opinion: For old times’ sake

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie

Anna Weisenberger was not an old friend of mine. She was my oldest friend. She passed away last week at the age of 109.

Our relationship began with a call in 2006 from Bob Haverstick, my buddy who headed up Never Too Late, an organization that granted 2,000-plus final wishes to seniors. Anna’s request was to meet me in person. She had been a fan of my newspaper column and had watched me on TV. When Bob heard the wish, he said to her: “We can do a lot of neat things for you in this organization. Can’t you come up with anything more exciting than that?”

Several months later, I joined Anna and her friends for a party and some square dancing at the Lawrence Community Center in Indianapolis where dozens of people gathered for Anna’s centenarian celebration. Friends also attended her 101st and 102nd birthday with a similar theme, but at her 103rd birthday, Anna was clearly finding all the excitement a bit tiring. “Maybe we should just do this every two or three years,” she told me.

Bob and I visited her several times at her home, often bringing her favorite lunch, a fish sandwich from McDonald’s. One time she requested a corned beef sandwich from Shapiro’s, Indy’s well-known restaurant famous for its tasty soups and deli foods. A trip to Shapiro’s was not convenient that day so we picked up corned beef from another eatery. Anna was grateful, but before we left she whispered in my ear, “I know that wasn’t from Shapiro’s.”

I once asked her about her husband, who passed away back in l987. They had been together 57 years. “Did you ever consider marriage again?”

“Heavens, no,” she said. “I think once was more than enough.”

My favorite of her remarks followed another luncheon date. As we walked to the door, she was commenting on some of my recent columns. “I want to give you a little friendly advice,” she said. “Be careful: you’re giving your wife all the funny lines.”

A voracious reader and grammar buff, she would occasionally red-line one of my sentences, and she questioned some of the phrasing. She once spotted a typo. I mentioned this to Heidi, my proofreader, who seldom misses my goofs.

“That’s a really good catch,” said Heidi. “Who spotted it? Your wife? Some ambitious newspaper editor? I’m dying to know who has a sharper eye than mine.”

“It was my friend Anna. She’s 103.”

Anna sent me emails with her critiques on a regular basis. When she was 94, her family gave her a computer and she took a class to learn how to use it. “It’s easier than calling the grandkids,” she told me.

When she was in her early 90s, Anna advised her neighbors not to worry if they didn’t see her driving around in her Buick. “I didn’t die,” she told her neighbors, “the car did.”

When I paid my last respects at the funeral home in Westfield, I heard more than a few people say that living to 109 was not something they aspired to. Anna would have concurred. She lived her last five years in a nursing home where they took wonderful care of her – but I know she missed her independence.

I can hear her saying: “I think 104 years was more than enough.”