An Interview with Doris Meneely Scott at the age of 104!

by Trish Utter

Ward Scott has told me stories for years about his mother, Doris. How at the age of 104 she still plays the piano and enjoys the company of younger people. Doctors are amazed that she plays new music on the piano all the time.

“In the evening the family would roll up the rug, invite people over and they would play the piano, sing and dance” said Doris.

“She always stayed out of the sun. She doesn’t wear glasses, no hearing aids but she does not like her hair the way it is now. She does not understand tattoos, she calls them drawings,” said, Ward with a fond smile on his face.

Doris lives in Gainesville with her other son, Robert, his wife Joan and their 8 year old granddaughter, Hannah. Robert told me that he found Hannah and Doris playing in the back room with Hannah spinning Doris around in an office chair and Doris laughing her head off. He said, “It’s like having two kids in the house.”

What year were you born in and where?

July 25, 1912, Urbana, Illinois, the year the Titanic sank.
What was your childhood like?

Did you have a sport, hobby?

I most remember the Depression. When the next door neighbors lost their house, we took in the entire family for two years. We had a big garden and grew our own vegetables and fruits. When I graduated from Urbana High School in 1929, I attended the University of Illinois. I majored in Physical Education, was a member of the Gregorian Literary Society, The Academic Honorary Society Torch, and the Women’s Glee Club.

I earned a “Major I” at the University of Illinois and participated in soccer all four years I attended the university. I was also a toe dancer, an ice skater, took apparatus, and played volleyball. I even played baseball on a women’s team when women didn’t play softball.

When I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1934, I became a teacher in a one room school house in Dewey, Illinois. Later, after my husband went to war against the Japanese in the Pacific Theatre as an officer in the 77th Division, Combat Engineers, I taught Physical Education for four years at Champaign High School until he returned from the war.

I had a younger brother too, Ward, after whom my oldest son is named. When my brother and my husband left for war, I didn’t know if either one would come back. So I named my first son after both of them, Thomas, for his father’s first name, and Ward, after my brother’s first name. That way if neither returned, I had their names in my son’s name. My brother Ward died at the age of thirty-six from a complication from childhood diphtheria. It was miraculous that he lived through childhood at all, for little was known in those days about how to treat the disease.

What did your mother cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

I was raised by my aunt and uncle and grandmother as well as my mother and father. I ate whatever the family put on the table. The food was always fresh and local, and prepared by time honored family recipes. Oftentimes the fish was fresh as well as the fowl and meat as all the men in the family enjoyed hunting and fishing. No fast food back then. I don’t like carbohydrates. No potatoes, rice, pasta and only a little bread. I loved the fried fish my mother made. I never had sodas and I usually hang on to a cup of coffee all day long and drink the occasional glass of water…when my family remind me too!

When did you get married and for how long and what are your views on sex?

In summer of 1939, my husband T.J. Scott, Jr. and I “revealed” our marriage. Because I was a single woman teaching school at the time, I was not allowed to be married. This may seem odd, but it was the policy in public education at the time that a
female teacher had to be single. So in the Fall of 1938, I went to my principal and informed him that I wanted to get married, that war clouds were gathering in Europe, and that we thought it best to start a family soon in the event that my husband to be should be called into service. I expressed to him that I didn’t want to be fired for getting married. What should I do? What could I do?

The principal said for me to go ahead and get married now, that he would break the rules and secretly cover for me until I could end my teaching commitment the next spring. It was a brave action for the principal to take at the time, for it put his career in jeopardy too should his cover up be discovered. Later, when the war did come, the educational policies changed and we married women were allowed to teach school while our husbands were away fighting. The principal’s courage, however, changed my life forever. And then, of course, not long thereafter when the world did go to war as we had feared, all of our lives changed forever.

As for your question about my attitude toward sex, I am traditional and what some people nowadays might call old-fashioned. My husband, born November 6, 1913, died from the lingering effects of the war on December 13, 1968, and I have never been interested in any other man. I was always loyal to the family and to my husband who was in some of the fiercest fighting in World War II. My husband was badly wounded at Leyte. He was decorated with the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star while his battalion was given Battle Honors, one of the highest honors a battle group can receive.

When my husband returned from the war, he went to work as a Civil Engineer, and I became a housewife. My role was to take care of the family while he earned the living. My husband was of the opinion that his wife should never have to work. The
wife raised the children, took care of the home and did everything she could to help her husband prosper on behalf of the family. Nowadays, that might be thought of as old-fashioned too.

Did you ever smoke or drink alcohol. If so what is your favorite drink and how many glasses a day?

No, I never smoked. About once a month I will drink a glass of red wine.

How many children do you have?

Two sons, Ward and Robert. Ward was born at the beginning of WWII, Robert at the end. I was able to spend very little time with Ward while he was young because I needed to work. So my mother and father took care of Ward while I taught school.
Ward was raised in a rural farming area until the end of the war and our family was reunited. Families did what they had to do to make sacrifices for the country. In his formative years, Ward essentially never knew his father, but Robert knew him from the day he was born.

What do you think is the key to a long and healthy life?

Be kind to people, stay loyal to your family and keep an abiding faith in the Lord. Meanwhile, my sons joke that the key to my longevity is how long it takes me to eat. They say I chew every bite of food at least twenty-eight times.

What is your favorite meal? Do you prefer meat or fish?

Fried fish, salmon especially. I also like onion rings. I hardly ever eat red meat.

Have you ever taken vitamins and if so what are they?

Yes, multi vitamins

Are you an optimistic person and how has that helped you?

Yes, trust in the Lord and you will have the peace that passes all understanding. I am not the type to worry. And I am always curious and wanting to learn. It also helps to keep a healthy sense of humor and to enjoy a good laugh.

What has been the most daring thing you have ever done?

Going to my principal and informing him that I wanted to get married before my teaching contract was up. My principal could have fired me on the spot, and my life would have been instantly much more difficult.

What would you advise people to avoid?

Eating unhealthy foods, smoking, getting overweight, not exercising, worrying, and not trusting in the Lord. And another thing I believe is that you should avoid going in debt. Live within your means. You don’t have to have everything under the sun just because it’s there to want. Even to this day at my advanced age, I have never had a credit card. Don’t believe in them. Never will.

What is on your bucket list?

I want to see Europe. I think it would be interesting to see another culture. The fashion and the history and to just be in another environment.

What are you planning to do on your next birthday?

Show up for it unless the Lord calls me home.

Doris still has her silver high healed dancing shoes and I hope that on her 105th birthday that she dances the night away!