Woman says Quaker Oats led to longevity

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Gladys Simpson, who turned 100 on Monday, was born in Battle Creek,

famous for Kellogg Corn Flakes, but she swears by Quaker Oats as a

major source of her longevity.

For

most of her adult life for breakfast, she ate only Quaker brand and

only oats prepared in a pan  — never microwaved. Her daughter

Marian Ax laughed, remembering how her mother packed her oats and a

small pan when she traveled just in case oatmeal wasn’t

available.

 Food variety did not concern her.

“I

didn’t eat it for the joy of it,” Simpson said. “I ate it because

it was good for me.”

Her

oatmeal habit along with never smoking and drinking helped her meet

her goal of reaching 100. Her birthday was celebrated Sunday with a

large gathering of relatives who traveled long distances for the

party held at Marian and Bob Ax’s ranch in West Valley.

Although she battles fractures from osteoporosis, Simpson maintains

enough mobility to live on her own next to her daughter’s house.

She still dresses alone, makes her bed and cooks two meals a day

for herself. 

For

years, Simpson enjoyed keeping up the yard and beautiful gardens

around her home.

“I

retired at 80,” she said.

Her

family still reaps the benefit of her work on family genealogy and

her sharp memories of American history since her birth on Aug. 16,

1910, in Battle Creek, Michigan, to George Edwin and Mary Catherine

Lacey.

“When I was 7 years old, World War I started and that made a big

impression on me,” she said. “A year later, the flu hit the whole

United States.”

According to Simpson, Battle Creek had a large Army post. She said

the installation lost as many men from the flu as they did from

fighting.

“It

was terrible,” she said.

In

1918, her family traveled by train to a new life in Fresno, Calif.

Simpson has a far-away look in her eyes as she remembered the

old-fashioned train with one engine pushing and the other

pulling.

As

the train rumbled across the prairie and the desert, death was

along for the ride.

“It

was so loaded with stacks of caskets of soldiers,” she said. “At

each station, they would unload caskets.”

Simpson’s first impression of Fresno was the intense heat. Her

family moved to a farm with apricot and peach orchards and grape

vineyards. 

In

those days, farm labor was performed by families of Armenian

immigrants who lived in their rather barren bunk houses.

“The women and young girls cut peaches and apricots,” she said.

“The men and boys did heavy labor in the orchards and

vineyards.”

Her

family next moved to Oakland where Simpson went to high school but

didn’t finish. She later took night classes and went to a business

college where she learned bookkeeping, a skill that kept her well

employed for years.

In

1928, she married Wilford Moore, a ranch hand, who moved on to work

at the Chevrolet parts factory in Oakland. Her first child Richard,

now deceased, was born on May 31, 1929, and her daughter Marian

followed two years later on the very same day in 1931.

Even more amazing, Simpson’s sister gave birth to a boy on the same

day, May 31, 1929, in the same town. She still recalls the headline

in the newspaper — “Sisters had boys like twins.”

 Her first husband left the family on their own in the Great

Depression. Simpson has vivid memories of the stock market crash

and people losing everything almost overnight.

“Rich and poor were on the same level,” she said. “They were poor

and that was all there was to it.” 

Simpson remembered how hard her mother worked, cleaning houses and

remodeling them. She and her mother also gathered food, like

potatoes left in fields after the harvest, for a community center

that functioned like a food bank.

They found many cast-off food sources to haul to the center for

canning. 

“We

got her (mother’s) wash tub and went to the cannery,” she said.

“Anything that was cut wrong or not really pretty would go out a

chute.”

Simpson said that hog ranchers would park their trucks at the end

of the chute and get all the fruit rejects. They would slip her

wash tub in to fill with fruit to take and can at the center.

“Mom was born and raised on a farm so she knew how to can. I would

clean the kettles,” she said. “You would get so many points for the

work you did there. That’s how the food was distributed.”

She

raised her family mostly on her own by taking bookkeeping jobs

until she got lucky in love. After moving to Oroville, Calif., she

met and married Louis Simpson, a forest ranger, in 1950.

“She was with him until he passed in 1972,” her daughter Marian

said.

Not

long after, Simpson came up to live next to her daughter in a

mobile home on the ranch. Marian said her mother devoted herself to

learning her family’s history, even earning a certification as a

genealogist in the process.

“She drove herself all over the country,” Marian said. “She would

go to court houses and cemeteries where she would get names and

information on the family.”

Simpson traced the Lacey family back to a William Lacey who was in

Virginia in 1625. Her most exciting discovery was that a brother of

her father (her uncle) had been living not far from her own family

in Oakland.

 Her father lost contact with his entire family after leaving home

and moving around the country. Because of Simpson’s work, her

uncle’s adopted daughter —  a nun named Sister Betty — became a

beloved member of their family until she died.

“She thought she had no family whatsoever,” Marian said. “She was

thrilled.”

A

member of the Mormon church, Simpson used their extensive genealogy

records in Salt Lake City to help her accumulate her huge book of

family lineage as well as photos. She credits her church’s wisdom

on diet and clean living with helping her live long enough to enjoy

her two children, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and

one great-great-grandchild.

Simpson said she enjoyed the gathering of relatives in the days

leading up to her 100th birthday celebration.

“I

get carried away talking about genealogy,” she said with a laugh.

“I wore myself out.”

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Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by e-mail at

cchase@dailyinterlake.com. 

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