Weatherford Democrat

June 19, 2013

At 105, Opal Bowden still independent, quick-witted


Weatherford Democrat

— By BRIAN SMITH



Celebrating her 105th birthday today, Opal Bowden has a simple philosophy that she believes has gotten her through her long and productive life:

“I believe in making good use of the day God gave me and moving on,” Bowden said during a recent interview.

Her grandaughter, Kristie Wiggans, said in an e-mail Bowden has two other secrets, as well:

“1. Do not complain because no one wants to stay around a complainer. 2. If your bed calls for you to come lay down and be lazy, keep walking past it,” Wiggans said about her grandmother’s secrets to a long life.

Bowden was born near Garner and raised near Authon before moving to Weatherford, where she lived her adult life. Bowden is known through the city and Central Christian Church, where she has attended for more than 80 years, for her quick wit and her ability to make everyone feel welcome and important.

She operated Opal’s Beauty Shop out of her homes for many years so she could stay close to her family. Bowden said most of the time her shop was on West Josephine Street, which she jokes used to be on the outskirts of town but is now “smackdab” in the middle.

When she first opened her shop, many women weren’t used to the concept of a beauty shop, Bowden said. She used to offer a shampoo and wave or a manicure for 50 cents and a permanent for $1.

“I was able to make a lot of people look better and made some wonderful friends with the shop,” Bowden said. “I couldn’t wait to start work every day.”

Despite being retired for 40 years now, Bowden says she still maintains a tradition from back then.

“I used to clean house at night when I worked and I still do,” Bowden said. “I don’t go to sleep early. You won’t get me going to sleep at 5 p.m.”

While Bowden says she does have some assistance from in-home nurses during the week and her lunch brought to her Monday through Friday, she takes pride in still living alone in a house she had built in 2003.

“It’s half the size of my old place and I just love it,” Bowden said. “It’s just perfect for me and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Like everyone else, the positive Bowden, who was named Ms. Senior Parker County in 2006, has gone through some adversity, having beaten both breast and ovarian cancer in her life.

“I came through both cancers just fine,” Bowden said. “Overall I’ve been blessed with good health in my life.”

The most painful thing, however, was losing her only child to brain cancer over the last year, Bowden said.

She says maintaining the good health is something she does by listening to what her body is telling her. She says she has been in hospice care for the last seven years.

Wiggans said she used to make breakfast for the hospice worker to show her appreciation. Bowden like to think she has defied the odds of hospice.

“When they put you in hospice, you’re supposed to die,” Bowden said. “I don’t pay a bit of attention to what I’m told. I tell them, ‘you’re not the one living in my skin.’”

She does suffer from osteoporosis, saying she has old bones. Because of macular degeneration, Bowden is blind straight ahead and can only see in her periphery, according to Wiggans. She does move more slowly these days but is still able to answer her own door and welcome guests. Bowden takes pride in getting up early and staying up late.

Bowden contends she still makes her own decisions and is happy for every day she gets. She pays no mind to friends that think she needs to be anxious over her life.

While she admits she doesn’t have a lot of visitors, she still enjoys visits from a family of raccoons, who are tame enough to eat out of her hand every evening.

“My husband used to hunt raccoons and here I am feeding them,” Bowden said. “They’re like my kids.”

Bowden says life tends to move quicker and the years flash by as she gets older. She prefers to live by a simply mantra.

“I have lots of friends, a good church family from the same church I’ve been going to for 85 years and I have enough to live on,” Bowden said. “What more could you want out of life?”