Bob Howell

All the news over the past week has included reports on the passing of Betty White .... who was only a few weeks away from her 100th birthday. 

To be honest, I was hoping she would make it to the landmark that so many people had wished for. But the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population lives to reach the magic number. That means you have the odds against you if you think that you will make it to 100 eating whatever you want, doing things you know are not good for you, and leaving the aging process totally to chance. But who knows ... stranger things have happened.

Betty White was not afraid of dying. Several years back, she told CBS News that her mother would tell her that when a close friend or family member passed away, “they would learn the secret” as they moved from this world to the next ... if you believe as White says she did. Living long enough to learn “the secret" comes at various times for all of us ... regardless of our beliefs here on earth.

So which celebrities have made the trek to 100 years or more? I admit I have trouble even keeping track of which of them passed on during the recent years. Here are a few that I am sure made it.

Bob Hope (1903-2003) was one of the senior comedians that instantly comes to mind. He was right on the money — living to be 100 when he passed away. He was known for hosting the annual Academy Awards show ... which he did for 19 years. He was a stand-up comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer and author. He played a lot of golf in his spare time.

One of those rough and tough actors was Kirk Douglas (1916-2020), the father of actor Michael Douglas. I was especially fond of Kirk Douglas in the movie "Spartacus."  He lived to be 102. It’s incredible to think of all the changes the elder Douglas saw in his lifetime. 

When asked which “star” I really enjoyed interviewing during my broadcasting career, there is just one person who comes to mind: Olivia de Havilland (1919-2020). The British born, American film star was best known by many fans for her role in “Gone With the Wind.” She was in Montgomery for the grand opening of the Alabama Shakespeare Theatre when we sat down for a chat. I found her to be a truly delightful lady, who died at 104 years of age. 

Another of the great comics on the television screen was George Burns (1896-1996), who, in numerous late night talk shows, made a big deal about still working after surpassing the century mark. He was one of the few entertainers whose career successfully spanned vaudeville, radio, film and television. One of his most successful films was “Oh, God,” a 1977 hit that co-starred John Denver.

Now that we have covered a handful of entertainers, how about U.S. presidents? I hate to disappoint you, but no U.S. President has lived 100 years or longer. John Adams and Herbert Hoover lived to be 90 years old; Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan both lived till they were 93. And the oldest U.S. president was George H. W. Bush, who died at age 94. And the oldest living president is Jimmy Carter, who as of this writing is 97.

So, with that said, here is hoping you make it to 100 — if that is your wish — and that each of those years is filled with good health and happiness.

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