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Long lives, well-lived

The Clarks, first couple to be honored, cite luck, genes, staying active

"We've had a wonderful life,'' Lois Clark<strong/>, 100,  says of her 73-year marriage to Dr. Will Miles Clark<strong/>, 102.

"We've had a wonderful life,'' Lois Clark<strong/>, 100, says of her 73-year marriage to Dr. Will Miles Clark<strong/>, 102.

So you want to live to be 100.

Take the advice of retired Tucson dentist Dr. Will Miles Clark, who is still driving at 102: golf as often as you can, drink plenty of cream and enjoy a great marriage.

Clark and his wife, Lois, a much younger woman at 100, are among about 50 Tucsonans ages 99 and older being honored Friday at the 20th Anniversary Salute to Centenarians. They are the first couple to be honored in event history.

The Clarks, happily married for 73 years, are in the fastest-growing population – people over 100. They are among about 50,000 centenarians in the U.S. today, three times the number in 1980, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 150 centenarians live in Pima County.

The two, who live with little assistance in a cozy home on the Northwest Side, enjoy good health and sharp minds. They attribute their long, happy lives to luck and good genes.

Teddy Roosevelt was in office when they were born. They’ve been around long enough to see Halley’s Comet twice. Even their kids are, well, not exactly spring chickens.

“All the kids are on Medicare now,” said their youngest son, Denny, 65, who lives in Tucson. Son Terry, 72, lives in California and daughter Kae Callahan, 69, lives in Illinois. They have seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandkids.

Will Clark was born Aug. 17, 1904, in South Dakota, nine months after the Wright brothers’ first airplane took flight. He attended Creighton University, graduating from dental school in 1929.

Lois was born in Iowa on April 9, 1907. She graduated from Northwestern in 1930 as a dental hygienist. They wed Nov. 12, 1933.

Their only separation came when Will, a member of the Army Dental Corps, served three years in the Pacific, from 1942-45, including a stint on Iwo Jima. “He was gone for three years and I didn’t have any idea where he was,” Lois recalled.

He later retired as a colonel, and the Clarks moved to Tucson in 1965.

Will has been retired for 42 years. “It’s the best job I ever had,” he said.

“I was 52 when I started golfing,” Will added. “When I was 75, I shot my age.” In his 90s, he walked the courses, carrying his own bag.

“But it got to be more trouble than fun,” said Will, who recently played his final game with son Terry.

“My life is now taking care of Lois,” he said, smiling at his bride, now in a wheelchair.

Will drives to the store and on errands. “He bought a minivan for his 100th birthday,” Terry said. Last year, he drove the Apache Trail, a harrowing drive that twists and turns through the Superstition Mountains. Lois shows off a shirt that declares, “I survived the Apache Trail with my husband driving.”

He rode his bike for 25 years, logging 1,800 miles per year. Only recently did he stop riding.

When asked if they follow a healthful diet, son Terry grins. Will is known for his love of rich food.

His father died when Will was a child. His stepfather ran a dairy farm, and every bit of cream was sold. “I said when I grew up, I would have as much cream and ice cream as I wanted,” Will recalls. And he did.

Will ordered a cheese crisp topped with ground beef, onions and tomatoes from Molina Midway Restaurant so often, they named it after him – the Dr. Clark.

Son Terry attributes their longevity to attitude. “They both have maintained a positive outlook on life.”

“And it’s very interesting to talk to them about current events,” Terry said. “They have good perspective on what is going on in the world.”

Said Will, “We’re in trouble in Iraq. We ought not go into countries where you might be able to whip them but you can’t win.”

They have witnessed tremendous technological advancement in their lifetimes “When you stop and think about it, it’s amazing,” Will said of automobiles, air and space travel, computers and other technology.

Lois said their journey has been all she dreamt it could be. “We’ve had a wonderful life.”

Robin Klaehn-Quilliam, who helped start the Salute to Centenarians in 1987 and is a Pima Council on Aging advocate and board member, has met hundreds of centenarians such as the Clarks.

She said with few exceptions, centenarians she has met are “vitally involved with their families and friends and the women were in caring occupations, either as teachers or nurses. They tend to be involved in politics and keep up with the news.

“We encourage younger generations and children to get to know their great-great grandparents so they can hear the stories,” Klaehn-Quilliam said. “They are our living links to history.”

Source: AARP

Lois in 1926

Lois in 1926

Will in 1923

Will in 1923

Lois and Will Clark<strong/> with son Terry<strong/><strong> </strong>(back), daughter Kae<strong/>,  and baby son Denny” width=”344″ height=”500″ /><p class=Lois and Will Clark with son Terry (back), daughter Kae, and baby son Denny

With the exception of a three-year separation while Will was overseas, the Clarks<strong> </strong>have spent the past 73 years together.” width=”500″ height=”410″ /><p class=With the exception of a three-year separation while Will was overseas, the Clarks have spent the past 73 years together.


About 50 Tucson centenarians will be honored at the 20th Anniversary Salute to Centenarians Celebration on Friday.

The standing-room-only event is not open to the public. It brings together the largest known group of centenarians in the country, and is the longest running celebration of its kind, according to the Pima Council on Aging. The council sponsors the event, along with Tucson Medical Center and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

The centenarians will be welcomed by Mayor Bob Walkup. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will pay tribute to each, and they will be entertained by Tucson fourth-graders performing 1950s songs.

For more information on the celebration, call the Pima Council on Aging at 790-0504.



Tips on living a long, healthy life:

> Be a lifelong learner.

> Be actively involved in life. Join a club, fight for a cause or volunteer your time.

> Maintain a hopeful outlook.

> Don’t smoke

> Don’t drink to excess

> Get 30 minutes of exercise daily.

> Get regular checkups.


Family Plus Poll: What are you doing to live to be 100?
Maintaining a diet and exercise regimen.: 10%
Not smoking or drinking too much alcohol.: 16%
Keeping a positive outlook on life.: 13%
All of the above.: 43%
None of the above. It's all in the genes.: 16%
30 users voted

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