SILER CITY — Spend any amount of time around Irma Beal, and it becomes apparent that she is no ordinary lady.
As Beal moves around her Siler City home with the independence and grace of a person several decades younger, she has a simple, yet compelling story to tell.
“It seems like I’m always busy, but I never get anything done!” she said.
For Beal, work — as in the full-time, 9-to-5 routine — was non-negotiable for over six decades. The last surviving child of 10, she doesn’t have a “secret” as to how she celebrated her 100th birthday on Dec. 31, 2021. As a certain professional football coach is apt to say, Beal was just doing her job.
“I’ve always worked from when I got out of high school up until I was 80 years old,” Beal said at her home last week.
Beal’s longevity has also caught the attention of Gov. Roy Cooper, who sent the Chatham County native a letter and centennial birthday commendation. The Chatham County Council on Aging held a celebration event for Beal on Dec. 29, 2021, at the Western Chatham Senior Center.
Centennial birthday recognitions from Cooper’s office require a request, which was something COA Executive Director Dennis Streets gladly provided.
“When it was brought to my attention that Ms. Beal was soon to celebrate her 100th birthday, I wanted to be sure we could do our part to join the festivities of this wonderful milestone,” Streets said. “I was so happy to inform the governor’s office of her birthday and have the governor and his wife send a letter and certificate to honor her as a centenarian.”
Although born in Chatham County, Beal moved to New Jersey in the mid-1940s and spent over five decades there, working full-time as a secretary of a trucking company. She returned in 2000 once her sister entered assisted living. Before visiting her sister daily, Beal would stop by the Western Center for lunch and enjoy a congregate hot meal.
From time to time, Beal remains an active driver, taking trips to the grocery store.
Social connections remain key. Beal keeps up with old friends, including her best friend from New Jersey. They talk twice daily via telephone, and more locally, she exchanges check-in calls with her 87-year-old neighbor.
“I call her every morning to see if she’s OK,” Beal said. “I call her every night before she goes to bed. She’ll call me if she doesn’t hear from me, but we’ve been doing that all the time.”
Although Beal can’t pinpoint a secret to reaching centenarian status, her mother lived to the age of 94. One piece of advice from mother to daughter still rings true regarding those prized connections.
“I remember her telling me that as long as I see somebody else living, I want to live,” Beal said.
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