Audrey Moore Stewart says one of her favorite pastimes is sleeping.
“I’m not particularly active when it comes to work,” she said.
Given that Stewart will turn 107 years old Friday, she’s probably entitled to a little laziness.
Stewart has lived at Signature Healthcare at Tanbark in Lexington since 2011, and she said she’s pretty self-sufficient.
“They help dress me in the mornings sometimes. Sometimes they don’t,” she said. “Same as getting ready for bed. They help sometimes. Sometimes they don’t.”
Lesley Stephens, the quality of life director at Tanbark, said Stewart uses her walker to get herself to and from the dining room for every meal.
She’s known for her love of sweets.
“When she sits down, she says, ‘Orange juice and cookies, please,’” Stephens said.
If said snacks are not promptly forthcoming, Stephens said Stewart is likely to waddle back to her room.
On her birthday, Stephens said the center will celebrate with a party and possibly a giant cookie.
“She’s always polite,” Stephens said. “She never complains. When she needs something, she’ll walk up here and tell you.”
On a recent afternoon, Stewart wore a black sweater and denim shorts, which she carefully tugged over her knees when a visitor asked to take her photograph. Then she gave a big, toothy smile: “Cheeeeeeeese.”
I have the theory that I can choose to be happy. So that’s the way I live.
Audrey Moore Stewart
When drawn up to her full height, she said she’s “4 feet, 10 and a half inches tall. And I weigh approximately 85 pounds.”
Aside from poor hearing and vision, Stewart said she has few health problems.
“I’m 106 years old and I’m in quite good health,” she said. “Of course, at my age, one never knows how long one has.”
What’s her secret to living a long life?
“I did not drink — except once in a blue moon. I did not smoke — except very rarely. I took good care of my health,” she said. “I would say living a normal, happy life is instrumental.”
She also credited “good genes and a good environment.”
Stewart was born in Montrose, Colo., and grew up in Champaign, Ill., an only child whose father worked for and later owned his own building materials business.
“I was not spoiled by my parents, but my husband spoiled me,” she said.
Stewart said she met her husband-to-be, Charles Stewart, at the Freshman Frolic at the University of Illinois.
“We went together four years and then we were married,” she said.
She said she earned a Bachelor of Science in journalism, a Bachelor of Arts in English “and three-eighths of a master’s degree in English.”
“I graduated from college in the Depression, and jobs were hard to get,” she said.
So, she said, her father supported her. Charles Stewart worked in her father’s business.
Later, the couple moved to Lexington, and her husband ran his own building materials business here.
In her younger years, Stewart said she was active in the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters and was a member of Phi Mu sorority.
She and her husband opened an antiques and gift shop, Many Moons, in Richmond, to help put their two children, Bruce and Danita, through college at Eastern Kentucky University.
Bruce went on to become an accountant, she said, “and Danita perfected every job she ever had. She improved the job.”
Both of her children are now deceased. Charles Stewart died in 2000, when he was 85.
But Stewart said she has several grandsons and their families, who are scattered throughout the country.
When asked what she is most proud of as she looks back on her life, Stewart paused and remembered a singing award she won for “all of Illinois, except Chicago.”
“I was a vocalist. I was a soprano,” she said.
And she said she was president of the AAUW for three years.
“I was proud of my education, which was journalism and English. I was proud of my kids, who made reasonably good grades. And my husband. I was very proud of him.”
She said her philosophy on life is simple.
“I have the theory that I can choose to be happy,” she said. “So that’s the way I live. It isn’t always easy. It’s easy to slip into a rut. You kind of have to keep jerking yourself up. I tell myself every so often that I choose to be happy, and that helps me keep happy.”