CRESTVIEW — Vera Owen turned 103 June 14, and celebrated the occasion with family and friends that day at the Crescent Park Village assisted living facility.

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Relatives present at the celebration included Owen's 81-year-old son Jim, of Crestview, and his wife Nell; her two sisters, Evelyn Grant and Emogene Adkinson; and a niece, Debra Grant of Griffin, Georgia.

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They enjoyed punch, refreshments and each other's company.

When asked what she wished for after blowing out the birthday candles, Owen said, "Just to be here for the next one!"

A little history

Owen, her sisters and their three older brothers (Barney, Melvin and Aldene) grew up on their family's farm in Sycamore, Georgia.

"Dad was a produce farmer, and grew (many different) vegetables, cotton and peanuts," Adkinson said.

She married Sam Owen at age 18. They raised two children, Jeremy (Jim) and Betty Lou, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. The couple had one grandchild, Melody, and two great-grandchildren.

Her son's story of a doctor's appointment

Owen spent 30 years as a manager at the Walker's factory in Ashburn, Georgia. The company manufactured men's dress pants.

"I worked at a place I had 300 people to manage. Just to speak to them every day took miles of walking. I enjoyed every day of it. I didn't mind going to work at all," she said.

When asked if she had any problems being a woman manager in those days, she made it very clear that wasn't a problem.

Further, "I never did have to fire anybody. If I had one that was not working right, I'd go tell the boss to fire him," Owen said with a laugh.

Hard work, clean living and friendship

Owen said the secret to life for her is good clean living and hard work, "and I've done plenty of it!" she said.

Those are the things staff members say they've learned about her during her stay at Crescent Park. Executive Director Meg Lawhon said Owen teaches others "that hard work will not hurt you! She has lived a life with Christian values and standards that she is proud of."

While Owen claims to not be as active these days — "I don't do a thing in the world: sit on the front porch, watch people go by," she said — some family and staff members implied she does a little more than that.

"She walks as fast without her walker as she does with it," Grant said. She had just finished looking for Owen's walker, and found it on the other side of the room.

Lorene Cawthon, Crescent Park administrative assistant, said Owen "runs rings around the staff" during exercise classes at the facility. She also enjoys full participation in bingo and other resident activities twice a day.

Lawhon, who has known Owen for 15 years, said she gets up around 7 a.m. every day, dresses herself and comes to breakfast. After that, she goes to her room to read the newspaper and make phone calls. She takes a quick nap after lunch, and spends time with residents and visitors in the living room during the day.

She says the 103-year-old is a wonderful conversationalist, loves bingo, and is an avid reader.

"She reads novels and is always on the lookout for a good book…she has a good sense of humor and is willing to try anything," Lawhon said. "She is a joy to be around, she is very popular with all the residents and staff."

That statement shows another necessity of life for Owen — having good friends around you.

"Don't be afraid to meet people — jump in and start a conversation with them. Be friendly and lead a good life," she said.