Irene Harvey has the secret to long life. Turns out, it is really quite simple.

Irene Harvey has the secret to long life. Turns out, it is really quite simple.  

“People ask me and I tell them I try to eat right, exercise and I still talk to the Lord a lot,” said the Laurie resident who turned 100 on Thursday. 

And there is so much more she has accomplished in the past century of a life that has been well-lived. 

Harvey served as an educator for 37 years, spending much of that time at Climax Springs where she once went to school herself. One of her students was her own son, Dennis Harvey, who recalled what school was like back in the 40s.  

“She was actually my first grade school teacher because we grew up in the Climax Springs area and she was the only teacher for elementary,” Dennis noted. “I think she had 20 or 30 students in a wooden schoolhouse with a wood stove in the middle. The government gave her beans so she could cook lunch for the kids.” 

Harvey also had another job during that era. Harvey and her husband, Charles, were married for six weeks when Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States was launched into World War II. Charles, who was also an educator, enlisted in the Navy the next day and went to fight in the Pacific for the next four years while she soon found herself working in a plant making B-24 aircraft.

“The men went into the service and women went into the factories making planes, tanks, boots,” Harvey recalled, looking back on one of the greatest conflicts in human history. “We had to win the war. The reason they call us the greatest generation is because we needed to save the country and the people.” 

The B-24s, also known as Liberators, were long-range heavy bombers used by the U.S. and British air forces during the war. Dennis remembered hearing about the factories having helium balloons nearby, 100 feet in the air and being held down by chains, as a safeguard against a potential Japanese invasion. 

“They thought the Japanese might come in with low bombers and at the time, they were not sure if the Japanese would invade California or not,” Dennis said. “She said she remembered huge balloons all around the plant to knock the wings off enemy bombers.”

Charles, who passed away about 15 years ago, later served for 18 months in the Korean War. As a civilian, he was a teacher, principal and transportation director for school buses as the couple spent time in nearby Benton County as well as the Raytown School District near Kansas City. The couple would have been celebrating their 79th wedding anniversary in the next few weeks.

Safe to say, they certainly made an impact on their children.

Dennis and his brother, Ken, followed a similar path to their parents as they both served in the Vietnam War. Ken went on to spend 22 years in the Navy and became a commander, serving as the captain of two different rescue ships. Dennis was drafted in 1968 and served in the Army. He even became an educator for five or six years before going on to sell catastrophe insurance and Ken, who used to live in the Lake area, currently resides in southern Alabama. 

“I have two wonderful sons who really made us proud,” Harvey stated. 

And it seems the feeling is mutual. 

“Everything,” Dennis said of what his mother has meant to him. “She has been 100 percent a mother and a terrific mom.”  

Dennis, who lives nearby with his family in Sunrise Beach, continues to take his mother out for lunch once a week and she still remains fairly independent. She may not be driving anymore, but she continues to enjoy her hobbies as she lives alone.  

Harvey used to enjoy sewing, making her own clothes and sport coats for her husband and two sons. However, she can no longer see very well due to macular degeneration and describes her computer, television, books on tape and “Alexa,” Amazon’s voice-service device, as her toys. Her independence may be best described by what happened about a year ago when Harvey had to have hernia surgery and temporarily stay in a care facility. 

“She told me one day to get her out of the prison,” Dennis recalled, laughingly. “They told her what time to get up, go to bed and eat and for 100 years she was doing it on her own time. I told her as soon as the doctors released her I would take her back to the apartment. I told her years ago I would not make her go to a home and would figure out a way she could live the life she wanted to live. She has been happy with that.” 

A celebration for the milestone birthday is planned for the weekend and Harvey has received flowers and her 100th birthday balloon. Unfortunately, it cannot be a big celebration due to safety concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, but her loved ones will be there to celebrate the big day. It just goes to show the kind of life she has led the past century and another piece of advice she has lived by all this time. 

“Be nice to people,” Harvey stated.