Village Senior Resident Spotlight: Thelma G.
February 28 is a very special day for Renaissance Village senior resident Thelma G. This year she’ll be turning 100 years old! She’s lived a full life and wouldn’t give up any experience for the world.
Thelma was born in Blackfoot, Idaho and grew up on her family’s sheep ranch. Everything the family ate they grew themselves. When Thelma was a young girl her mother was a school teacher. She remembers learning the alphabet forward and backward and all she needed to know about cooking and keeping a home. However, Thelma was a bit of a tomboy and much preferred working in the
fields with her father. When she wore her overalls, he’d call her “Johnny” and when she wore dresses he called her “Thelma”. She was her father’s favorite and she remembers him as very loving.
Thelma was one of six children. She had an older brother and sister who were twins, another older brother, and two younger brothers. She doesn’t remember growing up with them as everyone was always working.
Treating Mononucleosis as Hodgkins Disease
At 16, Thelma was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease and a Tumor and Cancer Specialist recommended radiation treatment. She had to travel 200 miles to Salt Lake City, Utah because it was the closest place she could receive treatment. This was difficult for herself and her parents. However, because of the limited knowledge of diseases at the time, it was later discovered that Thelma only had Mononucleosis.
Business College & the Beginning of a Long Career
Thelma briefly attended a business college in Pocatello, Idaho. During her year of studying accounting, bookkeeping, and typing she stayed with an uncle who lived there. She later took a job as a bank teller and occasionally worked as her boss’s secretary. He encouraged her to go back to school to become a secretary so he could keep her, but she was not interested in that field. She was later promoted to bookkeeper.
Marriage & Moving
Thelma married a young man named Wallace, and they had a son named Dennis. Their marriage later ended in divorce. She hates to say it, but she met Robert (Bob), her second husband, in a nightclub. He was in the Air Force and they had a lot in common, especially their love of dance.
Bob was in training as a manager for Montgomery Ward and they traveled as he was promoted from smaller to larger stores. They moved about every two years and lived in Kalispell, Montana and Le Grande, Oregon. When he was transferred to Walla Walla, Washington they stayed for six years, which was great because the kids were starting school. They always heard California had the best schools, but they felt the children had a great start in Walla Walla. They had three girls, Paula, Carole, and Cathy and another boy, Chris.
Thelma took care of the family at home and enjoyed every minute of it. However, with the kids in school, she was able to go back to work again. Even though she worked every day, she still made time to be a seamstress. She made her own clothes and when the girls were in high school she made their prom dresses.
Moving On Up
Thelma consistently progressed in her field because of her work ethic and knowledge. She later held positions as an auditor, assistant account supervisor and wire transfer specialist. During her time as the assistant account supervisor, the company she worked for was putting everything on computers. They began phasing out the accounting department and made it a point to say they would not be losing anyone. However, in this new era, they gave her the job of Purchasing Agent. This job was formally a man’s job, but she held it until her husband was transferred to San Diego and he began working for Broadway in Chula Vista. They told her she did the job better than any man who held the position, but she would never get the credit because she was a woman.
Thelma began working for Central Savings as an auditor. At the time they were building the first high rise in San Diego and she was able to watch it go up as they were building Horton Plaza. While working as an auditor, one of her biggest accomplishments was discovering an embezzlement of over $300,000.
Retirement, Traveling, & Grandchildren
She lost her husband, Bob, when he passed away from a massive heart attack at age 59. Thelma kept working until she was 72 and although she retired she began volunteering in the volunteer office at Sharp Memorial Hospital. After retirement, she went on a lot of cruises and trips with her daughters. On one trip she went up the Mississippi River on a paddle boat.
Thelma is also proud of the fact that she kept her license until she was 95 years old. It was a health concern and discussion with her doctor that she made the decision to no longer drive.
In addition to her five children, Thelma has seven grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Thelma credits her longevity to being active and enjoying her work. She shares there are a few things she might have done differently if she had the opportunity to live her life over again, but she enjoys her life. She doesn’t have a favorite decade because each one means something to her, but she did enjoy the swing years and all the
dancing. She’s most proud of her family and how well they’ve done as they grew up. Her best piece of advice for young people today is to be true to yourself.