Staying busy is key to living long

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 13, 2010

For one local lady the secret to living a long life is simple – staying busy.

And living a long life is something Helen Hess knows a lot about, having turned 95 years old recently.

“Staying busy has definitely helped,” Hess said. “But, I’ve never been one to run to the doctor every time I get sick.”

But, she contributes the background her parents gave her to the longevity, too.

“I was born and raised in Iowa on farm,” Hess said. “We went to a one room school. There was no bus service so we had to walk. I drove a Model-T coupe to high school, but every time I got to a stop sign, I had to get out and crank it.”

Hess was married to Lt. Col. Glenn Hess, who went overseas during World War II. She is currently resides with her daughter, Vicki, in Andalusia.

“I saw my husband only two weeks during the whole two and a half years of the war,” she said.

But, the Army life gave Hess an opportunity to see the world.

“I’ve done a lot of traveling. I’ve probably been to about 20-25 countries,” she said. “I went to Germany with three children after the war, just because we wanted to go. We went over to Heidelberg to the castle because my husband told me to. There were Germans sitting on benches and I was scared to death. I went back to where we were staying.”

Hess said when they first got to Germany the said to stay in Stuttgart in the officers’ house until they could get a house.

“We were some of the first Americans over there after the war,” she said. “It was so bombed out over there. We had to use dried eggs and dried milk.

“We could get cigarettes for 80 cents a carton,” she said. “And they were worth about $800 on the black market. You never went anywhere without cigarettes.”

Hess said she and another lady too a trip to the Italian Riviera for $10 in travelers’ checks and eight cartons of cigarettes.

“We took a trip from Germany to Rome. Transportation, meals and lodging for five of us for 10 days was about $100 per day,” she said. “And of course I had my purse stolen, while we were there.”

Other places Hess said she’s traveled that’s she really enjoyed include Greece and New Zealand.

“But, Alaska is my favorite,” she said. “Although, I love New Zealand. We also enjoyed the Greek Islands.”

After the war, Hess said she and her husband had one more child and continued to move around the country until they finally settled in Virginia.

“We ended up in Virginia and that’s where we lived until my husband passed away in 1994,” she said. “It’s the place we lived the longest – so it’s home.”

While the Hess lived in Virginia she said they had a store in Alexandria and her husband made chandeliers.

These days, Hess spends her time creatively.

“Most of the time, I am working on these prayers shawls. It’s two other ladies and me. I’ve given out six of these so far. I’ve got to finish this one, and I have the yarn for another one. We give these out to people who need comforting. We meet once a week,” she said.

Hess attends the First United Methodist Church and says she is active Bible study and prayer group.

Although, Hess said she hasn’t done much since she moved here to be with her son in 1996, she does play substitute in a Thursday bridge club, addition to her church activities.

And one may think her traveling days are over, but she recently traveled to south Florida to visit her son, who lives in Palm Beach, Fla.

Hess said she has a daughter who lives in California and a daughter who lives with her and she lost her other son last May.