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Blowing out 100 candles on the birthday cake

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By Kirsten Laskey

Zetha Warren turned 100 years old Friday and her birthday was marked with numerous celebrations. Warren, who is a resident of Sombrillo Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, had a birthday party with family and friends at the nursing center and later celebrated with about 40 family members at White Rock Methodist Church.

Last week, during an interview with the Monitor Warren joked that after all these parties she might want to go to bed and sleep for a week. Although her birthday is a special event, Warren looked at it from a modest perspective. “It’s just another birthday,” she said.

However, it will be well attended. “My family – a lot of family is going to be here,” Warren said.

She was born July 31, 1909 in Seneca, Neb.  and lived most of her life in Nebraska. However, Warren lived and was a teacher for 11 years in Las Vegas, Nev., she has resided in Los Alamos for 34 years.

Warren said, “I had a house in White Rock with a big garden and a lot of fruit and flowers. I was sad when I had to leave that (but) I was no longer able to do the work that was required to be there.”

Warren also kept busy in her church. At White Rock Methodist, she organized the men’s chorus and ran it for 15 years.

Music appears to be a big part of her life. “I grew up with music,” she said.

She explained growing up her father would have her play the piano in church.

Her father was a supply pastor and he and his family moved around a lot. Warren said congregations would take up collections to pay for his salary.  Her mother was from Wisconsin and she moved to Nebraska at age 17 to help her older sister who had just had twins.

Money was tight for Warren’s family. She explained after graduating high school at age 15, she was interested in going into missions, “but I couldn’t go to any of those schools (because she didn’t have the money) so I went to  a teacher’s school in Kearney, Neb.”

In an impressive feat, Warren completed college at age 18 and became  principal at a high school.

How did someone so young deal with this great responsibility?

Warren joked that before she was hired, the teachers  yelled at the students to behave “but I just looked at them and they behaved.”

She married her husband, Aubrey Warren on Feb. 16, 1929. Aubrey, who was a dentist, died in 1973. They were married 44 years.

The couple had six children: Dick Warren of Green Valley, Ariz., Jean Ganzel of Seven Lakes, N.C., Michael Warren of Demarest, N.J., Barbara Hendrix of White Rock, Gail Little and Bruce Warren both of Los Alamos.

She met her husband while driving to church. All the girls were interested in him, Warren remembered.

“He was a nice man,” Warren said. Living during the Depression Era definitely seemed to have its impact. For a short time, Warren said she taught courses at her college and was paid $90. “I thought that was a fortune.”

Not having any money didn’t isolate you from others, however. “Everybody was poor so it didn’t make a person stand out,” Warren said.

A thrifty attitude has stuck with her. Gail recalled when she and her husband were remodeling their home her mother came over to take a look at it. Her mother asked how big their closet was going to be and when she learned it was 7 feet by 10 feet and 8 inches, Warren declared that was “disgraceful.” Gail said she was informed that her mother’s first house was pretty much the same size as their closet, the whole house extended 8 feet by 11  feet and 3 inches.

Warren said when it was time to eat, they had to lift up the bed to make room for the table. Birthdays always seem to be a time of reflection and looking back at all she has experienced, Warren said she is most proud of her children.

“My kids. They are all fine and doing well and good to me and I can’t think of anything better.”