Throughout her 102-year journey, Juanita Richards has celebrated her birthday on four U.S. Presidential Election Days. In fact, Richards, an 11-year Pleasant Manor Health and Rehab resident, has shared her birthday with the elections of Presidents Herbert Hoover in 1932, John F. Kennedy in 1960, Ronald Reagan in 1988 and now President-elect Donald J. Trump.
102 years before celebrating her birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 8, Richards was born in 1914 in Sullivan County, Indiana near a town name Shepherd under the Woodrow Wilson presidency. Three short years later, tragedy struck the growing family.
“I am the oldest of 12 siblings, my two youngest sisters are still alive and they are 77 and 80. I was three years old, my brother was one-year-old and my mother was having another baby. I don’t know what really happened, but she passed away in the hospital. She was only 16 when she had me, so she was very young. I don’t remember anything about her really,” Richards explained.
After the passing of her mother, the family moved into her father’s parents' home close to Carlisle, Illinois. Her father remarried when Richards was seven years old, and, at 14, she moved out of the house to become a live-in housekeeper for six years.
“I married Ralph in 1934 when I was 20. He served in the Navy for two years and after World War II he needed to find a steady job,” Richards said.
Richards and her husband gave birth to their only son Danny Richards in 1941 under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of her favorite presidents.
“In 1949 we were living in Illinois, Ralph wanted to move to Odessa for a contracting and painting job, and we lived there until the 1960’s. The company my husband worked for moved to Atlanta, so we had to follow it. We lived in eight different states before we stayed in Texas for good,” Richards said.
The Richards' eventually moved to Strawn where they would stay for 25 years. At the end of their time in the tiny Texas town off of Interstate 20, Ralph was diagnosed with Alzheimer's which would eventually result in him moving into Pleasant Manor with his wife in February of 2005.
“Ralph was diagnosed prostate cancer shortly after the doctor’s visit about his Alzheimer's. The doctor put us both in Pleasant Manor and by the time we got there his Alzheimer’s was bad. He also didn’t want any treatment for his prostate cancer. He passed away March 16, a little over a month after we moved in,” Richards explained.
To date, 102-year-old has lived under 17 different presidential administrations, 25 election years, the assassination of the 35th POTUS John F. Kennedy, a near-impeachment of Richard Nixon in 1974 and a full impeachment of a U.S. President 24 years later.
Yes, Richards still to this day remembers the impeachment of Bill Clinton, husband of 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, on Dec. 19, 1998 — and she remembers it vividly.
“Hillary is as crooked as a snake. I knew that when she and Bill left the White House for the first time. If I would’ve bet money on who would win this election, it would’ve been on Trump. He is smarter than her, but he played dumb sometimes,” Richards explained. “He had the guts to say what he thought and that’s why the Democrats didn’t like him. He doesn’t back off and we need someone who doesn’t”.
Richards then noted that she was glad 44th President Barack Obama’s two terms are coming to an end and that she never believed him to be a “true American.”
“I really liked Roosevelt. He put all the poor people to work. He had men out digging ditches and cleaning the highways. He created the CCC camp for the men who wanted to work and liked to work.”
According to the Miller Center website, “the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) put 300,000 young men to work in 1,200 camps planting trees, building bridges, and cleaning beaches”.
Before Reagan’s presidency, Richards was a fan of his films, his role in Hollywood and his wife, Nancy.
“Ronald Reagan was one of my favorite presidents, but Nancy was more the president than he was. She was the boss and told him what he could and couldn’t do and what he should and shouldn’t do. A lot of people didn’t realize it,” Richards stated.
Talking about former Presidents is not all Richards is up to these days. Even after a century-plus of living, she still manages to make her bed daily, dress herself regularly, make the long walk to the dining room unassisted and indulge in her favorite meal — courtesy of Chicken Express.
Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL