Truey Cooper behind the wheel of the all terrain vehicle that she rode on during a 97th birthday visit to her children.

Truey and Gillie Cooper during a visit Truey made to the nursing home. (Submitted photos).

Spencerport woman, at 97, living life to the fullest

Truey Cooper turned 97 on May 6 and celebrated her birthday with a ride on an all terrain vehicle in Washington state while visiting her children and grandchildren. "There was a view my kids wanted me to see and the only way to get there was on the 'motorcycle,' " she said. "I held on tight and asked if this thing could go any faster."

In addition to her ride on the ATV, she was the guest of honor at a birthday party thrown by her family.

Cooper, who married Gillie Cooper in 1990, and had 10 children with her first husband (she also adopted and raised two other children) to whom she was married for 50 years, has lived in Spencerport for her whole life. "I love it here," she said of the home that her husband built. She pointed out the fireplace in the living room which was made of fossil rocks from the Hudson River.

She remembers growing up in an orphanage with her brother. "We got out when I was 13 and I was married at 16."

Living through the Depression was another memory she shared. "I would sometimes bake pies and go up and down the street selling them to the construction workers." To this day, she is known for her sweet confections. Her cookies are even talked about at the Spencerport post office. When she gives cookies to her mail carrier the announcement is made that "there are Truey cookies in the break room." Cooking, baking, knitting dish cloths and tatting are a few of the activities that keep her active. "I also get up every morning and exercise. My granddaughter calls it my "wiggles," she said.

"Some weeks I get four pies," long-time family friend Fran Maier said. He has known Truey and her family since the 1960s. "I went to school with her kids."

Maier also said he introduced her to mangoes and delivers asparagus to her. "She is quite a lady," he said with a smile.

Paying $1 for three gallons of gas and two cents for a newspaper and a stamp were sometimes trying times. "I remember one time we were in the car and were passing a stick of gum around and also looking for money to buy gas and we got to the gas station but found my daughter had accidentally thrown out the dollar and tried to pay with a stick of gum," she laughed as she told the story. "We dug around until we found the money for the gas."

Truey, who still has a car but only likes to drive it when necessary, says she just can't sit still. "I always like to be busy and to be talking to people."

Cheryl Thomas, a friend who comes and cleans her house and drives her to church said, "Truey is one amazing woman, she has such faith and sees the good in every situation."

As I sat at her kitchen table I was gifted with one of the shoulder rubs that she has become "famous" for. Her granddaughter, Anna, wrote about going to a restaurant and seeing her grandmother grab the server and give him a shoulder massage. "I don't know how I learned to do them, but everyone wants one, even at the nursing home when I go to visit Gillie," she said.

While Truey always tries to tell the truth she said she couldn't help herself when she was at church recently - she attends the Spencerport Bible Church - and the pastor announced that it was her birthday, asked her to stand up and the congregation to sing. "He asked how old I was and I told him 79 and next year I will be 89 and the following year I won't have to lie about my age any more."

Thomas said one of Cooper's favorite things to say is that she's "as happy as a toad in a puddle." She makes you happy just to be around her, Thomas said.

Anyone who meets her had better prepare themselves to be regaled with stories and wrapped in a warm hug. "I always seem to be surrounded by people," she said. And after meeting and spending time with her I can see why.

© June 24, 2007 - Westside News Inc.