Lexington artist Adalin Wichman is turning 88 in a few days, but she isn't even thinking about slowing down.
Wichman is too busy, anyway, putting the final touches on the bronze trophies for the Eclipse Awards that will be presented early next year to major figures in Thoroughbred racing. Wichman sculpted the original design for the annual awards in 1971, but she gets the trophies ready for presentation each year, adding a patina and assembling each piece.
"I'm fretting about it, but you just keep plugging along," she said. "So much of this is just plugging along, isn't it?"
Wichman's long success at "just plugging along" will be honored Tuesday night, when she will be named a "Senior Star" at the 24th annual dinner of the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging Foundation.
The Bourbon County native began as a fashion illustrator in the 1950s. Now, Queen Elizabeth II owns some of her work. Wichman has contributed to calendars commissioned by the White House Historical Association, designed the Foucault pendulum in the Lexington Public Library downtown, and she has an entry in this year's Horse Mania exhibit. All this from a woman who didn't plan an art career.
"Art was just something I did from grade school," Wichman said. "If they needed a backdrop for a play or something, there was no question who would do it. I just enjoyed it so much."
She doesn't know why she's been able to remain active and involved for so long. While she agrees that many creative people — artist Pablo Picasso, musician Pablo Casals — enjoyed long, vibrant lives, she notes that others "just go off like Roman candles" at a young age.
"Frankly, I think it's all blind luck," she said. "I'm terribly proud to be selected by Sanders-Brown, but I don't know why I was chosen."
The Sanders-Brown Foundation works to secure private gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations to support UK's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. The foundation's annual dinner is its main fund-raiser and features speakers who are examples of successful aging. Previous speakers have included actress Lauren Bacall, former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former first lady Barbara Bush.
Tuesday night's principal speaker will be Lexington sports-media executive Jim Host, 72.
Like Wichman, Host has no grand theories about his long and accomplished life. He was a top baseball pitcher at UK, headed various Kentucky state government agencies, ran for lieutenant governor, built Host Communications into a sports-marketing powerhouse, helped bring the FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games to Lexington and worked to get a new sports arena for downtown Louisville.
He says he's always had lots of energy and drive.
"I always wanted to do better every year with whatever I was doing," Host said. "I don't look at myself as being 72. I look at myself as still being in my 40s or even my 30s. I really think it's important to stay active as long as your health allows."
Several people will be honored at the dinner. In addition to Wichman, James E. "Ted" Bassett III, 89; Phyllis Jenness, 87; and Vivian Weil, 92, all of Lexington, will be named Dr. William Markesbery Senior Stars. The awards are named for the former Sanders-Brown Center director who died earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Peter Koreck of Louisville, Josephine McElvey of Lexington and Gershon Shulman of Versailles, all 100, will receive the Dr. David R. Wekstein Centenarian Award. Wekstein is professor emeritus of physiology and biophysics at the UK College of Medicine and former associate director of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.