Celebrating a century
Alpena woman will celebrate 100th birthday with ride in Posen parade
ALPENA — To make it to 100, all you have to do is wake up 36,500 days in a row. That’s 876,000 hours of life. Or 52.56 million minutes. Or 3.1536 billion seconds.
On Sunday, Barb Carlson will wake up as a centenarian for the first time in her life. To celebrate her 100th birthday, she will participate in the Posen Potato Festival Parade, which happens at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
“Eat healthy … stay busy … and mind your own business,” Carlson said when asked what advice she has for leading a long life.
Carlson will join an elite sector of the population, as only 0.0173 percent of people in the United States live to be 100, the U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2010. That’s 53,364 centenarians out of approximately 309 million Americans.
“I never dreamed that I would ever live quite this long,” she said. “But God knows best. He knows what he wants to do.”
Born in Florida as Barbara Lee Barr on Sept. 9, 1918, to Bertha Lee and Harry Clay Barr, she moved to the Detroit area when she was 12 years old.
“So really, I call Michigan my home,” Carlson said. “I’ve lived here so long now.”
She married Edwin Carlson on July 29, 1938, and they bought a cottage on Grand Lake in 1968. After her husband retired in the early 1970s, they bought a home on Grand Lake just down the way from the cottage, and her granddaughter, Amanda Coulon, lives in that home today. Carlson’s daughter, Bev Huard, also lives on Grand Lake.
“So that’s how we all know Alpena and Grand Lake, is because my dad found Grand Lake, and we all fell in love with it,” Huard said.
Carlson now lives in a senior apartment building in Alpena. Her husband died April 14, 1989.
Carlson “still lives on her own and is sharp as a tack,” according to Coulon, who added in an email to The News, “She deserves to be celebrated on this momentous occasion!”
In addition to eating healthy, Carlson has walked a lot over the years, including walking across the Mackinac Bridge 19 times, the last of which she completed at age 90.
“The first time I walked it, it was so awesome to see all the surroundings,” she said of the yearly Labor Day walk. “It just took your breath away, it was so beautiful.”
She used to spend a lot of time ballroom dancing, but now she has slowed down a bit.
“I’m a little slow at things now,” she said. But, she added, “I feel good. I don’t have any health problems.”
She enjoys coloring, gardening, crocheting, and doing Sudoku puzzles. She also loves playing euchre and watching the Detroit Tigers, Lions and Pistons, and the Michigan State Spartans, as well as the University of Michigan sports teams.
“My favorite sport to watch is basketball,” she said.
In the parade, Carlson will ride in a yellow Corvette, driven by owner Gaylord Kelly, who is Huard’s neighbor.
Huard is Carlson’s only daughter and the youngest of her three children. Huard’s older brothers are Richard and Thomas, who live in the Detroit area.
Other than being a bride, Carlson had never been in a wedding party until this past May, when she was flower girl in the wedding of her great-granddaughter, Carly (Borders) Bennett, who married Dakota Bennett on May 9 in Toledo, Ohio.
“It was a very wonderful experience,” Carlson said of the wedding.
Carlson has three children, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, so far, with another due in October.
Having lived through the Great Depression, Carlson is a champion at saving money, and she always knows the best prices in town for groceries, her daughter said.
“I do my own shopping,” she said, adding that she takes the Dial-A-Ride to whichever grocery store in town has the best sales that week.
She also clips coupons regularly.
“I like to buy the things that are on sale,” she said. “And if I don’t need it right then, I still buy it when it’s on sale.”
She has been on the giant billboard for Neiman’s Family Market, Huard said.
“She knows the price of everything in Alpena,” Huard said of her mom. “Meijer, Neiman’s, Walgreens.”
Carlson said she appreciates all the help she gets when she goes to the stores around town.
“They all treat me very nicely, and always ask if they can help me,” she said of the workers. “And I say, ‘No, I more or less do it all myself.'”
Huard said her mother has become very independent since she became a widow 29 years ago.
“She never drove a car until my dad became ill,” Huard said. “And she got her license and she drove herself around … she was in her 70s when she got her license, and she drove till about 90. And we said, ‘That’s enough’,” she added with a laugh, which her mother echoed.
Carlson said she drove around town only.
“The world has changed so greatly over the years,” Carlson said. “There’s so much I can’t believe. Like all these computers, I can’t believe how they work, really. It’s just such a big change from what I’m used to.”
She does have a cell phone, though, and she is trying to keep up with technology as best she can.
“I don’t use it as much as I should, but I do have a cell phone,” she said. “I know it does a lot of things that I’m not aware of.”
Huard said her mother always looks and acts like a lady.
“She always looks so cute,” Huard said of her mom. “She always wears her pearls. Not many 100-year-old ladies can wear capris and a cute little top like that.”
Huard said the main lessons she has learned from her mother are to be honest, maintain your composure, and don’t waste your time with gossip.
“She’s very lady-like, in her mannerisms, in the way she carries herself,” Huard said. “She’s always been honest. She’ll tell you like it is, if you like to hear it or not.”
But, sometimes, keeping your two cents to yourself is a good idea, Huard said.
“When I was growing up, she’d say, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say about somebody, don’t say anything at all,’ and I’ve really followed that advice my whole life.”
In addition to being honest, Carlson has always been a hard worker, her daughter said.
She worked for almost 10 years in the Chrysler factory before heading into retail for 10 years at Hudson’s.
At the factory, she said, “Men would think my job was too easy, and they would bump me off.”
But then, after the men would do the same job, they would let her go back on the line, she said.
“I made it look easy, I guess.”
She said that, no matter what she does, she works at it with everything she’s got.
“If you’re gonna do a job, do it right the first time,” Carlson said.
That motto rings true for Carlson in her century of life.
“Just take good care of yourself,” she said. “That’s what I’ve always done.”
Darby Hinkley can be reached via email at email@example.com, or by phone at 989-354-3111 ext. 324.
If you go
∫ WHAT: Posen Potato Festival
∫ WHEN: Various times beginning at 9 a.m. today and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; Grand Festival Parade, featuring 100-year-old Barb Carlson, happens at 1:30 p.m. Sunday
∫ INFO: For more information, including a complete schedule of events, check out posenpotatofestival.com/2018-posen-potato-festival-info.