For her 100th birthday, Datha Roberts went on her first motorcycle ride, escorted by 50 bikers.
The centenarian has fond memories of the surprise organized by her grandson, evident by the photo-filled album she proudly shows off to visitors. Now close to celebrating her 102nd birthday in May, Roberts has no plans of slowing down.
Her secret? Keeping busy.
“I worked most of my life,” Roberts said sitting in her Savannah, Missouri, house, where she lives on her own. “I started working when I was about 16 years old cleaning houses.”
Roberts didn’t stop working until she was 90. She would have kept going if life hadn’t gotten in the way.
“I had a friend and we would clean four houses a day sometimes, until she got so she couldn’t do it,” she said. “And the boy said, ‘That’s it, you’re not doing it by yourself.’”
Roberts was born on May 24, 1918, in Easton, Missouri, and later moved to a farm in Stanberry, Missouri, after marrying her husband, Stanley. Eventually, she moved to her current home in Savannah, where she hopes to stay for a long time.
“I don’t really want to be away from all my friends and not being able to do what I want to do,” she said.
Roberts spends much of her time at the Andrew County Senior Center and going to dances and potlucks.
“I met so many nice ladies and we have such a nice bunch,” she said. “We usually go to three dances a week and then I play cards one night a week out at the center.”
When the weather is nice, Roberts takes her 1992 Geo Metro short distances to the beauty shop and grocery store. She’s been driving it since she passed her driver’s license test at age 87.
“My husband always took me wherever I wanted to go. Then he got Alzheimer’s and they wouldn’t let him drive,” Roberts said. “He said, ‘I guess we have to sell the car.’ And I said, ‘No. I’m gonna learn to drive.’”
So Roberts did. Even before she got her license, Roberts was a loyal client of Farmers Insurance — at least since 1941. The insurance agency doesn’t have records prior to Jan. 1, 1941, and Roberts herself isn’t quite sure of the specific date, either.
“I’m probably the oldest, but I don’t know how long,” Roberts said.
Apart from regular eye treatments, Roberts is in good health. The toughest thing about being her age is losing close friends and family, she said.
“I have a cousin that’s two months older than I am, and she said the bad thing is, everybody’s dead,” Roberts said. “I had two sisters and a brother and I was the oldest. They’re all gone.”
Losing her husband after a battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s was especially hard, as well as the loss of her longtime travel partner.
“My sister and I traveled all the time,” Roberts said while pointing at her fridge covered in souvenir magnets. “After she passed away, I didn’t go for a long time.”
If Roberts feels lonely or needs anything, she said her son, two grandsons, four great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren are there to keep her company, although communication with the younger generation can be a bit tricky at times.
“I talked about some things and the kids look at me like, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. But when they talk, I don’t know what they’re talking about, either,” Roberts said with a laugh.