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'She's just an amazing lady'

After shrugging off the fuss at her 100th birthday in 2009, 105-year-old Pearl Teeter was no more impressed with this year's milestone.

Asked what she thought of living five years past the century mark, she relaxed in her blue easy chair in her Medford home on Wednesday and simply shrugged.

"I don't. I don't think much of anything about it at all," she said calmly.

Still comfortably living in the home she shared with her late husband, Teeter passed her birthday — after a huge party the past weekend — with her doting daughters teasing her about her longevity and her sass.

One of Teeter's four daughters, Medford resident Sylvia Parks, pointed out the meaning of her mother's name.

"Did you know your name, Pearl, means precious?" Parks asked her mom.

"Well, I'm not," said the mother with a grin.

But to Parks, and Teeter's large extended family, she is indeed.

She was born Nov. 26, 1909 in Bothell, Wash., the daughter of parents who came to America by way of Ellis Island, just one sibling prior to Teeter's birth. Both parents died within four years, leaving the children orphaned and adopted to different families.

A hard worker and a devoted mother, Teeter's stubbornness and tenacity could have contributed to her longevity, as apparently did her genes, with several siblings also reaching the century mark.

The oldest living graduate of Whitman College, she majored in English, minored in music and served as a proofreader for the Whitman College Pioneer before graduating in 1932.

She met her life's partner, Kenneth Teeter, during her years at Whitman.

Not big on sitting around, the couple played golf together beginning in her 40s — a sport she continued into her 80s and for some time after her husband passed away in 1997.

While she had no specific tips on how to live past the century mark, Teeter figures maybe golf and an active lifestyle helped her out.

"I liked golf," she noted on Wednesday, glancing at a crossword puzzle in the newspaper nearby.

Still able to beat daughters and grandchildren at Scrabble well past the 100-year mark, she and her daughters agreed music was another contributing factor to her long life and quality of life. Her talented descendants include numerous theater buffs, musicians, artists and dancers.

"Two things we always remember that were our favorite about Mom," said Parks, "were that she was always there when we got home from school and we always had music in our home."

While her husband has been gone nearly two decades, Teeter continued to live in her own home, only in recent years giving up daily walks and driving.

Grandson Kurt Winchell, who lives in Eugene, credited his grandmother's spunk for her long, healthy life.

"In the years I've known her, I just always have known her as a really cantankerous, knew-how-to-get-her-way kind of woman," Winchell said.

"She was around during the Great Depression and she knew a different day and age than any of us ever will. She's still in her own house, which is pretty incredible. She's just an amazing lady."

Equally in awe of her mother, Parks says her family feels "incredibly fortunate" to still be celebrating birthdays with her beloved mom.

Well into her senior years herself, Parks exhibits her mother's sense of humor.

"She doesn't think it's such a big deal to be as old as she is," Parks said.

"Although, when your mother is 105, it's easy to feel like 76 is pretty young!"

 Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com

Pearl Teeter, who recently turned 105, is still living at home in Medford. photo courtesy of Sylvia Parks