Retired Alva Math Instructor Turns 109

Saturday, September 9th 2006, 10:34 am
By: News On 6

ALVA, Okla. (AP) _ Kristine Brown is a decade older than the state she calls home.

The retired math instructor at Northwestern Oklahoma State University turned 109 on Friday. By some estimates she may the state's oldest resident.

But to the small group of friends and former co-workers who look after her, she's the same independent-minded, cat-loving globetrotter she's always been _ just a tad more frail.

``She's always been a self-sufficient woman,'' said Edith Meyer, a longtime friend who along with her husband, Roland, looks after Brown and her affairs.

A strict Seventh-day Adventist, Brown never smoked or drank. Travel, flowers and cats were her only vices. She drove her own car until she turned 100, Meyer said. Brown stayed in her home another four years until deteriorating health caused her move to a nursing home.

``She had her cats, and she had her flowers, so she was happy,'' Meyer said. ``Even now, whenever she really gets upset at the rest home they just go get one of the kittens in the open area, put it in her lap and that quiets her down.''

Brown was born Sept. 8, 1897, in Rockville, Mo., but according to Meyer, her father was a wandering carpenter who built a number of churches in the Alva area before eventually settling in Guthrie.

``That's where Kristine went to school, and we know for a fact she was a very good student,'' Meyer said. ``When we were cleaning out her house we found her report cards, and she made very good grades.''

Perhaps that positive school experience combined with her family's early moving around influenced her career choice, for Brown bounced around a number of regional colleges while earning her teaching certificate.

Along the way she married another teacher and landed at a rural school near Perry, where she and her new husband taught school together.

``Her father built them I guess what you'd call the first mobile home,'' Meyer said. ``It was a house pulled by horses, and that's what they lived in.''

The couple continued to teach until World War II sent Brown's husband overseas. He survived the war, but their marriage did not. They divorced and Brown never married again, choosing instead to combine her vocation and her wanderlust.

``She taught school at a number of places and studied all over the country,'' Meyer said. In 1947 Brown applied for and received a math instructor's position at Northwestern in Alva.

There she would stay for the next 59 years and counting.

``She lived in the dorms for two years before buying a house directly across the street from the college,'' Meyer said. ``And that's where she stayed until she had to go to the rest home.''

Brown taught at Northwestern for the next 15 years until her retirement in 1962. That's where she struck up her longtime friendship with the Meyers.

Meyer said a visitor is in for a treat when Brown is having a good day. Like all of Oklahoma's centenarians, she becomes a living bridge to our state's not-so-distant past.

``She could tell you all sorts of fascinating tales,'' Roland Meyer said. ``Her life was a good story.''