Living to age 100 — or older — is a feat, no doubt. But reaching that landmark and maintaining a lively mind is an even rarer achievement. According to the 2010 census, there are more than 50,000 Americans who are age 100 or older. Anna Outwater Day '27 is undoubtedly one of Bucknell's eldest alumni. And Charlie Vogel '37 will soon join the century club. They have a thing or two to say about living a rich life.
By Matt Zencey and Sherri Kimmel
In the Driver's Seat
Charlie Vogel '37, age 99 and counting, routinely drives his red 2009 Jaguar around his home, Pennsylvania's Chester County. He's a breakfast regular at Penn's Table in West Chester, where all the workers know him, and his meals are free for the rest of his life. He still interviews prominent guests for the TV channel at his retirement complex. With more than 100 shows on his résumé, his guests have included several famous standouts from his beloved Philadelphia Phillies — Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Charlie Manuel included.
Vogel just recently surrendered his role as board treasurer of the local Meals on Wheels and began using a cane. He has more hair than his middle-aged interviewer does, and not all of it is gray.
Thinking back on his years at Bucknell prompts fond memories. "I cherish every moment I spent up there, good and bad," he says.
Tops on the "good" list, he says, was meeting his wife, Virginia Fisher '40, who died in 2011. Following Bucknell football was high on his "good" list, too — he says he got an award for attending Homecoming games 60 years straight.
On the "bad" ledger was the huge Susquehanna River flood of 1936. He and a pal borrowed a canoe and helped rescue people from homes by the river. Vogel also scored some points with his French teacher by making sure the man's piano was out of reach of the floodwaters — a handy chit to have, he said, because foreign languages "weren't my best subject."
He remembers returning from swim practice one winter morning, when the car he was riding in slid off the road and almost landed in the west branch of the Susquehanna River. (That's when he decided to quit the swim team, even though he had helped found it, before the school even had a pool.)
Vogel is still class reporter for the Class of '37, but with nobody else sending in news, he says, "I write crazy things." He writes a lot about his grown granddaughter's potbellied pig. "It's gotten to be pretty well-known," he says. "I got letters from people in other classes."
He chaired his 50th class Reunion, which he says set the record for raising the most scholarship money of any class. Until recently, he came back to Bucknell every year for the Scholarship Day Celebration.
Will he come back to Lewisburg for his 100th birthday this Feb. 2?
Says Vogel, "I'd love to get to campus one more time."
If he does, it will be with a ride from his family. In a rare concession to his age, he doesn't drive long distances any more. That red Jaguar will be home in the garage.
With the recent success of the movie remake of The Great Gatsby and the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire, references to the Roaring Twenties still abound in popular culture. But finding an authentic flapper today ... not so easy.
Anna Outwater Day '27, who celebrated her 108th birthday Aug. 25, can lay claim to that title. Speaking recently with a Bucknell visitor at her retirement home in Charlottesville, Va., Day recollected her campus days and the origin of the term. "We wore galoshes unbuttoned so that they flapped. That's why they called us flappers.
"I have fond, fun memories of Bucknell," she adds. "Nobody was allowed to have a car unless you were an upperclassman. You walked everywhere. I really developed good legs. Maybe that's why I'm so old."
Day's Bucknell education, she says, "gave me an experience I never would have had otherwise. I met a nice group of girls and boys. There were four boys for every girl, and I managed to get fraternity pins quite frequently. I still have them."
Her senior year, she says, that pin came courtesy of fellow New Jersey native Ted Mitchell '29, center for the football team.
Day belonged to Kappa Delta sorority, was active in musical activities and majored in French with minors in math and Spanish.
"I was only 19 when I graduated, and I went to look for a job [in New York City]," she recalls. "I went down on Wall Street, because I thought my French would help me get a job in the diplomatic service."
She pursued her master's in French at Columbia University, then was told she needed shorthand and typing skills, so she took classes at a business school. Day spent seven years as a secretary in the long-distance department of AT&T before marrying and raising a family.
Today, she resides near her daughter, Betty Dinwiddie, and enjoys visits with friends and family. Day remains a lifelong learner.
"I have been reading since I was about 3 years old," she says. "I'm still reading a lot," especially historical fiction.
"I don't have any words of wisdom except that I took advantage of every opportunity that was offered to improve myself and to be nice to other people," she says. "I was conscious of the privilege it was to go to college. Not many people had it. It was expensive, and you did the best you could and took advantage of every opportunity."
When asked her secret to a long and happy life, Day says, "You were put on earth to help other people. That's the way I was brought up. I think Bucknell promoted that."
— Sherri Kimmel, with assistance from Steve Codner
Note: The staff of Bucknell Magazine is saddened to report the Jan. 9 death of Anna Outwater Day '27. We feel privileged to have depicted her wit, wisdom and wonderful smile shortly before her passing, which occurred after the magazine was printed.
Keys to Aging Gracefully
Charlie Vogel ’37 faces his 100th birthday with vigor and good humor
Asked about the keys to a long life, near-centenarian Charlie Vogel ’37, says with a mischievous smile, “I have a stock answer to that: Good booze.”
Seriously, he says, “Good genes is one thing.” His mom lived to be 95, and a grandfather lived to be 94 before dying because of a fall. His dad died relatively young at age 61, but Vogel thinks he would have lived longer with modern medical care. While good genes are a start, he says, “You’ve got to take care of them. You exercise. You watch what you eat.”
But now that he’s nearly 100, he says he’s loosening up. “Anything goes!"
“I like eggs. I must eat 14 a week.” He has two a day, poached, mixed with regular Cheerios, which he seasons with a surprisingly large dose of black pepper.
He wasn’t totally joking about the “good booze.” His regimen includes a nightly drink of vodka, with a little gin for taste. “The doctor says a drink a night is good for you. Or two,” he says, chuckling. He’s also big on chocolate and coffee, noting that experts now say coffee is good for you.
Among his more conventional advice for enjoying a long life, he says, “You have to keep busy. Don’t just give up, sit and take it easy. You’ve got to keep an active mind and body. Remember there are a lot of people out there who need help.” He mentions his work with Meals on Wheels, where he was a longtime board member and treasurer.
“The only the thing that makes me feel my age are the usual things,” he says, reaching for his cane, which he only recently started using.
Mentioning a favorite slogan, he says, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. If you live by that philosophy, you can’t go wrong.”
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