Story by Lauren Schatz, Photos by Nancy Leppelmeier
“Today I am 104,” Stillwater local Clara Joyner said, “not a lot of people live to be 104 – I guess I’m an oddball.”
The birthday girl celebrated her special day, October 11, with her son and daughter at Brookdale Senior Living in Stillwater. Her room was adorned with celebratory balloons, cards and flowers, and she sported a birthday ribbon and a big smile.
Though 104 may seem pretty old to most people, Joyner says she still feels young. In fact, she says she is surprised how good she feels.
“Here I am beyond 100 years [old]…I feel great,” she said.
Her secret to longevity? She says she doesn’t have one.
Joyner views turning 104 as just another chapter in her life to enjoy. When asked if she has had a favorite age, she said, “my favorite age is now; now today, now tomorrow, now next week.”
Though Joyner is enjoying living in the moment, she certainly has many good stories from the past—many of which involve her time in Stillwater.
“What do I like about Stillwater?” Joyner asked. “Oh my goodness, how much time do you have?”
Some of her favorite memories from Stillwater involve raising her three children and gardening with her late husband. Her son says their yellow Chrysanthemums were often featured on the front page of the Stillwater newspaper.
When she wasn’t spending time with family, Joyner could be found working in the Stillwater community or traveling to historical sites in Europe.
There’s no doubt that Joyner has stayed busy during her 104 years. Even as a child she was often busy playing the piano—thanks to some encouragement from her mother.
“In my mother’s book, you practiced piano one hour a day,” Joyner said. “She saw to it that we kept up with it for sure.”
She is thankful for her mother’s constant encouragement because she was able to use her musical abilities all throughout her life: playing piano at her church and teaching piano in the Stillwater community.
“The way I got to know so many people in Stillwater is I taught piano and had quite a lot of piano pupils,” Joyner said. “I enjoyed it a great lot.”
Besides teaching piano, she also taught reading for various grade levels. She is thankful that the education she received from Oklahoma State University prepared her for the teaching world.
“I found that, in every course, they had goals, and they expected you to live up to those goals,” Joyner said. “They weren’t fooling about; they meant business. If you were going to be in school there, you needed to mean business. I appreciated that because I think they set a standard.”
Joyner made a lasting impact on many of her students, as well as her piano pupils. On her big day, two of her former students reached out to her son, Craig, asking him to pass along birthday wishes. They must have made an impression on Joyner as well; the 104-year-old remembered the students’ names as if she had taught them just yesterday.
According to her children, Joyner makes a positive impression on everyone she meets. They credit this to her optimistic attitude.
Her daughter said, “anytime anyone asks how she’s doing, she says the same thing every time, ‘I’ve got it made.’”
Joyner admits she tries not to let little things get to her. “If you let these things bother you, you’d be bothered all the time,” she said.
The 104-year-old has learned that life can be tough at times. She says she deals with negative circumstances by assessing the situation – she looks for the good and bad of the situation and then figures out how to deal with it. Her son says Joyner has kept her positive attitude during the ups and the downs of life.
“She’s the most positive person I’ve known in my life,” he said. “She sees the bright side in everything; no matter how negative or dark it is, she finds a grain of positivity and holds on to it.”
It is apparent that Joyner’s positive attitude has helped her enjoy her 104 years. Perhaps she does have a secret to her longevity after all—an optimistic outlook on life.
“Isn’t life fun?” She asked, laughing.