July 3, 2004
Two feet inside her door is all it takes to fit right in.
Dorothy Krieg takes it easy, soaked in the comfort of her little hideaway that perfectly suits her right to relaxation.
She leans over from her recliner with an answer to how she "feels" at 102.
"Do you want me to be a smart-aleck?" she asked, giggling while tapping thumbs to fingertips. "With my fingers."
Krieg marks her 102nd birthday Sunday. She is a longtime resident at Village Oaks, an assisted-living community at Brown and Gilbert roads in Mesa.
The carefree woman takes pride in reaching 102. But simply acting naturally is all she needs.
Krieg, eager for her Friday birthday celebration at Village Oaks, recalls a significant family event at her childhood home in Ohio.
One day as a little girl, she asked her father why he was so excited.
"He said, ‘Honey, an airplane came down in one of our meadows.’ He took me by the hand and took me down there," she said.
That’s when they met the plane’s pilots — Orville and Wilbur Wright. Krieg’s father invited the pilots over for dinner that night.
"It was a good meal," she said.
Krieg’s life path led her all over the United States, including stints in Florida and California. One of her more memorable times came in the early 1940s, when she and a friend ran a coffee shop in Florida called Puddin’ & Pie.
But her hometown in Newark, Ohio — smack dab in the middle of the state — remains the most sentimental.
"If I look back, I’d say my favorite place was back where I was born in Ohio," she said. "I knew so many people. I just fit in properly."
She fits well where she’s at, too.
Annella Ritter, executive director at Village Oaks, returns with Krieg’s mail that includes a letter from Gov. Janet Napolitano. The letter congratulates Krieg on her milestone birthday.
Ritter’s presence paints an instant smile on Krieg, who now wants to talk about Ritter’s grandchildren.
They’ve known each other for more than 13 years. "We feel very blessed to have her in our lives," Ritter said, admiring Krieg’s energy and longevity. "She’s an inspiration to everyone who lives here." Krieg’s secret to longevity is simple, so she says. "I’m ornery."
As for looking back in history, Krieg’s favorite U.S. president was Ronald Reagan. "He was a wonderful president. Everybody was saying how hard he’d be to replace," she said. "He was wonderful and his wife was, too."
And as for her birthday falling on Independence Day, she playfully tweaks the lyrics of the tune "Yankee Doodle Boy:"
"Real life ‘niecey’ of my Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July," she said.
"I changed that for me."