100 Years Young

By Ariane Kjellquist

Maybe it’s the 700 steps of exercise that he completes every morning at the Wellness Center. Maybe it’s good genes. Maybe it’s loving family and friends. Maybe it’s staying active and engaged in the community. Whatever his “secret to longevity”, longtime Habitat volunteer and supporter Clarence Schmidt turned 100 on Sunday, May 1; and he’s not resting on his laurels.

Clarence regularly visits the Asheville Habitat office and ReStore. He attends Skyland United Methodist Church and is involved with activities at Givens Estates, the retirement community where he lives. And he plays Wii bowling every Tuesday with a group that, only in recent years, switched from regular bowling to the computerized version.

When Clarence comes to the office, we all stop what we’re doing and listen. The stories of his life radiate with love, faith and purpose.

The son of a minister, Clarence was born in St. Francis, Kansas in 1916. He lived in many different places including Colorado, Nebraska and Jerusalem.

He and his late wife Lucille met in Chicago, IL when he was a junior and she was a freshman at North Central College. They waited until she graduated to be married at Thorndike Hilton Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. In 2014, they celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

After searching high and low, their children pointed out that no greeting card company makes “Happy 75th Wedding Anniversary” cards – because very few couples reach that milestone. So they purchased a Happy 50th and a Happy 25th!

After marrying, he started his 44 year-long career with the YMCA. When he retired, he became a Habitat for Humanity volunteer; first in Tryon, NC and then for 20+ years with us at Asheville Area Habitat. He volunteered at the ReStore and on the ReStore truck loading and unloading donations until he was in his late 80’s. When his doctor advised him to find a less physically strenuous volunteer activity, he began collecting the recycling every week at the Habitat offices and taking it to the recycling center. It required less physical exertion, but he was still kneeling, squatting, lifting and pushing things around. He did this until he was age 97. Yes, 97.

Clarence exudes positivity and happiness like no one else I have ever met. He is always smiling.  Living to age 100 is impressive in and of itself. But Clarence did not just “make it” to 100. He is a centenarian who has, and continues to live a meaningful and active life, every day.  He is mentally acute and incredibly agile. I am not alone, when I say “I hope to be like Clarence some day.”

Clarence loves life and does not take it for granted. 100 years, two children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren later, Clarence says “I have had a wonderful life. I am so blessed.”

He knows what is important – family, friends, faith and purpose. Personally, I think that – and probably good genes, too – is the key to his longevity.

From all of us at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, Happy 100th Birthday Clarence!