Computer buff doesn't let age stand in way of enjoyment

Monday, July 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) -- "I used to chat on the Internet, but I thought chatting was kind of cliquish," says 91-year-old Jewell McFarlin, computer buff.

On a daily basis, the tiny lady spans the globe, keeping in touch with friends and relatives by e-mail and also surfs the Internet for information.

Some of McFarlin's e-mail locations are Baton Rouge, La., Fort Worth and Denton, Texas, Los Angeles, Calif., and Australia.

About five years ago, McFarlin decided to take some computer courses at Pioneer Technology Center to learn about WordPerfect. Her first computer was a used one she bought at a Conoco auction for $200.

McFarlin uses her computer in other ways such as making greeting cards for friends and relatives and for others at church. She spends more time on the computer than watching television.

"If I get lonesome or bored, I go to the computer. I make greeting cards. I go to TOPS club and people give each other cards."

A spry lady, McFarlin belies her age by doing a lot of swimming for exercise. About 10 years ago she was diagnosed with a congestive heart condition and, since that time, swims laps at the YMCA four or five times a week.

"I really learned to swim at Conoco," McFarlin says. Both her daughters, Joan Secrest of Ponca City and Donna Patrick of California, were competitive swimmers. She says at first she just dog paddled, but decided after the girls were in competition that she had better improve her strokes.

Other interests McFarlin pursues is preparing communion at the Church of God, where she has been a member since 1928. The church has a 55 and older club she goes to, and also once a month she meets with the Retired School Secretaries.

A Missourian by birth, McFarlin came to the Dilworth area where her father was a carpenter during the oil boom, and he built wooden derricks. She recalls walking two miles to school to a two-room school house. When the boom went bust, they moved to Ponca City in1918, and she has been here since. Her education included graduating in 1925 from Ponca City High School, when it was located on Grand Avenue.

After her marriage to Earl McFarlin, she continued her education at Northern Oklahoma College. This turned out well as she took typing, business and bookkeeping courses, which she would need later to earn a livelihood after the death of her husband. Earl had worked in the power department of the Conoco refinery.

With a strong will to survive, Mrs. McFarlin, who became a widow in her 40s, got a job a Lincoln School as a secretary.

"God looked after me, because the principal of Lincoln called me and asked me if I would take the job."

She was the first elementary school secretary in the Ponca City school system. This part-time job supplemented her Social Security and helped with the expenses of raising her two daughters.

After eight years at Lincoln, McFarlin was offered the full-time secretary's job at West Junior High School, where she worked another 13 years before retiring in the 1970s.

But retirement didn't take, and she was hired by Frolich's StyleShop and later worked for Ms. Charles in the same location on Grand Avenue. She retired again at the age of 78.

McFarlin and her sister, Lorene Dickson, 88, of Baton Rouge, La., enjoy traveling, but have been slowed down somewhat because her sister broke her hip last year. McFarlin flew down and took care of her sister during her convalescence and she has also driven her car to Louisiana, but doesn't drive at night.

When she isn't on the computer or doing some other activity she likes to read and is a fan of author Michael Crichton.