What’s the secret to longevity? For 91-year-old Marian Meade it’s a combination of work and healthy living. A big part of both for her is Weight Watchers.
Doing nothing is anathema to Meade. She drives her 2008 ivory Cadillac with the specially ordered chrome grill and big, spiky chrome hub caps to work five times a week. At work, she operates a computer, a skill she learned not so very long ago.
It’s a part-time job as a receptionist at several Weight Watchers branches in St. Louis’ southern suburbs and across the river in Columbia. She also works in her garden, goes to breakfast with friends and plays bingo and the slots in places as far away as New Orleans.
Her heart is sound. Her back aches sometimes. She says her doctor told her, “My body just isn’t deteriorating.”
Luck and genetics play a role in her active life. Although her father died at 68 and her mother at 87, her grandfather lived to be 100 and her aunt, 102. Then, there are her living habits. She eats right. Keeps a regular schedule and has never taken a drink of alcohol.
Her personal philosophy for aging well: “I don’t stay home. I go somewhere every day.”
She said Weight Watchers contributes 50 percent to her going out, eating right, keeping her mind active and maintaining friendships.
Works for the people
It was a half-hour before the next meeting at the South County branch, recently, and she was sitting in one of the chartreuse molded plastic chairs that are a fixture at Weight Watchers sites
Most of her contemporaries are dead. She said she works not for the money but for the people.
She lost 75 pounds in 1970 in Weight Watchers and has never gained them back. “I tried everything, “she said. “Even shots that got me so wound up I couldn’t sleep at night.” Weight Watchers, she said, worked because it changed her eating habits.
“People tell me all the time, ‘If I were 91, I’d eat anything I wanted.’ I am eating everything I want.”
Meade was wearing a natty navy and white blouse and navy slacks. The outfit highlighted her twinkling navy eyes. Her perfume was by Estee Lauder.
Life not always easy
She grew up in the Depression in St. Louis. She attended elementary school at Wilkinson School. Her parents, Stella and Fred Schwan couldn’t come up with the bus fare and lunch money she needed to go to Southwest High School. But her brother Harold Schwan made 35 cents a day selling papers and paid her way. He was a flame thrower in World War II. That damaged his lungs, and he died at 42.
She has buried two husbands and the childhood sweetheart who became the friend of a life-time in her later years.
The sweetheart Fritz Strothkamp first noticed her when she was 13. When his wife died he began searching for her. He looked for 10 years. He found her when, by chance, she sat across from his cousins at a bingo game. He died in 2002 of pneumonia.
Her first husband, Melvin Shy died of melanoma after 26 years of marriage. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Her second husband, Floyd Meade, died of a massive heart attack after 10 years of marriage. When they married, he was a widower who had two sons. His boys are her boys, she said. His grandchildren hers. “I am the only grandparent they’ve got.”
She has nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Marian Meade went from being a Weight Watcher’s member to an employee in 1984.That was a tough year. Her second husband died and three months later her mother died.
“I was caring for them at home,” she said. Two people on oxygen in two bedrooms. Suddenly, they were gone. I couldn’t stand to stay home. Weight Watchers offered me a job as a receptionist. It was a life saver.”
Waiting for Marian
The time for the meeting was nearing, Vicki Ellenbrecht, a Weight Watcher’s instructor arrived. Ellenbrecht, 66, of Oakville and Meade met almost five decades ago as Weight Watchers’ members.
Ellenbrecht said no-one guesses Meade’s age “Marian is a real go getter. Always up to having fun.”
Ellenbrecht also testified that Meade is still a safe driver. Although, Ellenbrecht said she often drives them on longer trips.”
A line was beginning to form at Marian Meade’s computer in the weigh-in area. There is another receptionist, but some regulars will only weigh with her.
“She is always so positive and kind,” said Cindy Taylor,. 67, of Affton. Taylor had lost five pounds. Marian Meade gave her a cheer and a high five.
Ruth Ann Assaf, 72, also of Affton, had gained a smidge. Assaf confided she had partied a bit. Meade told her she will probably lose next week.
“Everyone confesses to me. This is my confessional,” said Meade with a laugh.
She laughs a lot. Her biggest age-related worry these day is what she will wear to a grand-daughter’s wedding. She says fancy dresses are all made sleeveless and short, with the young in mind.