Hinckley centenarian reveals secrets to a long life

By Nancy Ivan

The young ballerina balanced on her toes, arms outstretched in a graceful pose.

“I began to study ballet at age three or four. I liked dancing en pointe the best.  I went on to teach, and several decades ago I owned my own ballet studio,” Hilda Hutchings said.

Though she may have hung up her ballet slippers a while ago, Hutchings’ love of dancing persists.

Hutchings celebrated her 100th birthday in January and has lived in Hinckley for the past 21 years.

She was born in Mississippi and grew up on a plantation where her parents raised shorthorn Hereford cattle.

“I liked to fish and ride horses,” she said, noting that her earliest memory is riding Buster, her Shetland pony.  “I was so little my parents had to hold me on his back. Even though I grew up during the Great Depression we didn’t feel the effects of it. We had cattle and grew our own food.  We raised sheep and my mother and grandmother carded the wool and made clothing from it. We took wagonloads of food into town to share.”

According to aging expert Dr. Angel Iscovich, the life expectancy in the U.S. is 75.6 years for women and 70.8 years for men. Out of 7.8 billion people in the world, there are only about 316,600 centenarians alive today – an amount that is larger than the population of Cincinnati but smaller than Columbus. 

Hutchings credits her longevity and good health to her daughter and to a happy marriage.

“My wonderful daughter, Susan, cooks for me,” she said. “I eat a healthy diet – every day a big breakfast of an omelet with spinach and two link sausages, toast and coffee.”

Hutchings also exercises every day with hand weights and a mini pedal exerciser.

When asked about smoking and drinking she said, “Yes, I drank bourbon and smoked like a chimney, but I quit 30 years ago when my husband got sick and the doctor said second-hand smoke wasn’t good for him. I don’t like wine; now I drink one Coke a day.”

She spoke fondly about her husband Bob. They met when she came to visit her cousin in Delaware, Ohio.

“She introduced us in April and we got married in July. We had a happy marriage and laughed a lot. We liked going sailing and fishing together,” she said. “He said he wanted one child, a girl named Susan, and we got her. We brought our baby home on our first anniversary.  We were married for 46 years and we always had a good time together.”

Hutchings now has two grandsons and two great-grandchildren.

She offers this advice to the younger generation: “Be yourself and enjoy your friends and your grandchildren. There was nothing I wanted to do that I regret not doing. I didn’t miss out on anything.”

Hutchings said her only regret is that her husband didn’t live long enough. She used to go to church but now she prays a lot during the day. She said she has never felt overly stressed.

She doesn’t use the computer at all but considers it one of the most important inventions of her lifetime – along with the microwave and television. She likes to watch old westerns and game shows on TV and enjoys the “Top Gun” DVD her grandson Brandon gave her for her birthday.

What did she want for her 100th birthday?

“All I wanted was a hot dog with lots of onion and mushrooms and baked beans,” she said. ∞