Every birthday is special, but I think we can all agree that it becomes more meaningful when you’ve reached a certain age. According to 2017 data from the United States Life Tables, life expectancy in the country is 78.6 years, but this woman from Oklahoma has long exceeded that number.
We bet you’ve never met someone like Ethel M. Bowens. This supercentenarian was born on August 26, 1909, in Seward, Oklahoma, and she recently celebrated her 111th birthday! She was born two years after Oklahoma officially became a state, and she has lived through both World Wars.
This makes her the oldest living woman in the Sooner State, a title she got when she turned 110 last year.
Like all quarantine birthdays, Ethel sadly didn’t get the chance to hug and kiss her family during her special day. However, some of them came to visit her in the nursing home where she’s staying. No physical contact was allowed, so they just waved to her through her window and sang her a happy birthday. Loved ones also brought her gifts and cupcakes.
Ethel has lived in Seward all her life until she moved to the city of Guthrie. She had four siblings: Opere Maple, Donald Maple, Leroy Maple, and Justina Maple. She also went to school in Seward, where she met her husband, Volna Theodore Bowens. The pair tied the knot in Oklahoma City on May 3, 1925.
The woman was an active member of her community. She joined Rising Sun Baptist Church in 1925 and became a Sunday school teacher, a pianist, and a member of the Women Mission and Deaconness.
“Well, they didn’t know the Lord, and I had to teach them,” she said.
Ethel lived with Volna and their six children, including twins, on a 160-acre farm. They had to wait 17 years to have children, and she said raising her family was “the greatest” time of her life. She was the homemaker, cooking three meals a day and making clothes for her kids.
“I made nearly all of my children’s clothes. We had a living on the farm. Didn’t have to go to the store for everything,” Ethel told KOCO News.
“Her income was selling the cream and the butter,” Rhonda Bowens added. “She made butter and milk and eggs.”
Ethel had nothing but good words to say about her late husband.
“Oh, he was a nice man. He never wanted me to work. I stayed in the house and took care of it,” she said.
She added that their healthy and loving relationship is one of the secrets to her longevity.
“Having one man,” she explained in a 2019 interview. “Well, you don’t have to be bothered with two or three. You got used to that one, and that one was enough.”
The other ones were her faith in God, having kids late in life, and avoiding vices such as smoking and drinking. Ethel is also a survivor, having overcome breast cancer and heart disease. She and her husband also helped raise three nephews and one niece.
Ethel and Volna lived together for 65 years until he passed away on March 18, 1989. Since then, she lived alone until she moved into the Golden Age Nursing Home in February 2016 when she was 106.
Last year, Ethel received thousands of cards from around the world for her 110th birthday, after a request from the family went viral. Surely, she will have no shortage of birthday cards anymore as her family is continually growing. Ethel now has 29 grandchildren, 54 great-grandchildren, and 45 great-great-grandchildren.
Happy birthday, Ethel!