When asked the secret to surpassing 100 years of age, Hesperia resident Opal Rawls credits her attitude and determination.
"I could quit right now, but I won't. I don't quit," she says. "I have a stubborn streak."
This tenacity comes across instantly. "I like to do my own thing," she says. "Keeping active helps."
Rawls is in good health and still living at home. Her typical day includes rising early, having tea while reading the paper, doing her own housekeeping and
Born on Jan. 22, 1912, Rawls shares a birthday month with the state of New Mexico. While her 100th birthday was a low-key affair, Rawls describes her 99th birthday as a big deal. In a candid picture framed in her living room, Rawls' zest for life is clear — she stands next to her cake, arms thrown wide and mouth open in song.
Rawls describes herself as a happy person. "You can't let anything get you down," she says. "Things happen to everybody. You know you have to deal with it, so you do."
As she describes her life, it is clear that Rawls has maintained this attitude through good times and bad.
After moving to Arizona from Arkansas at a young age, Rawls got married at 16 and had her first daughter two years later. She was married to her husband for almost 75 years before he passed away in 2003. Rawls had four children with her husband and now has
10 grandchildren, 45 great grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Rawls and her husband were cotton farmers during the Great Depression. Referring to the current economic situation, Rawls notes that things were different at that time because there was no welfare.
"Either you made it or you just didn't," she says matter-of-factly.
In 1981, Rawls and her husband moved to Hesperia, attracted by the open space in the desert. They bought a plot of land for only $7,000 and built the house where Rawls still lives today. In the years since, Rawls has watched the town grow up around her.
Rawls has no plans of moving from her house and is determined to stay out of a nursing home.
"I'll fight to the last ditch," she says. "I'm glad they have [nursing homes] but I don't want to be in one."
While she credits her long life to her determination, Rawls says she never was aiming for 100 years and is thankful for her health.
"I'm thankful that my head's on straight," she says. "I'm thankful I can put one foot in front of the other."