“It’s something people ask me and ask me,” said Clarice Ross of Perry when asked the secret of her longevity. She celebrated her 104th birthday Thursday at her home at the Rowley Masonic Community in Perry.
“And I always say the same thing: I haven’t the faintest idea.”
Clarice taught third grade in the Perry public school system for many years, but it was for her a return to teaching after a long spell as wife and mother. Her teaching career had begun long before, in 1932, when she was fresh out of school and landed an $80-a-month job teaching second grade in the Woodward school system.
“I heard about the job, and when I got there, 12 people were already in line,” Ross said. “I won’t say I went home deflated, but I was sure I wouldn’t get the job, being just out of school.”
But the next day the phone rang, and she was offered the job. It was a lucky break, she said. Many of her friends were teaching in rural township schools hereabouts and earning $40 a month. It was the depth of the Great Depression in the U.S.
Her path has had its bumps, too. Clarice’s father died of a burst appendix before her birth in 1912. She lost her mother to tuberculosis when she was only 5, and she was thereafter raised by an aunt and uncle on a farm south of Ogden.
But Clarice survived these shocks and graduated from Ogden High School in 1930. She now speaks with pleasure of her many friends and acquaintances from her teaching days in Perry.
Clarice still likes getting her hair done on Thursdays and is a fan of the broasted chicken served at a local Perry restaurant. She is looking forward to their reopening in the spring, she said, “maybe on the 20th or 25th.”
Her son, Gary Ross of Perry, celebrated his 80th birthday this month, and Clarice said his two daughters, her granddaughters — “one from Colorado and one from Illinois” — came to town and prepared a pair of birthday dinners for them both.
“They fixed Gary his favorite: beef,” she said, “and for me they made a lovely ham.”
Clarice has never been one to seek the spotlight but prefers things “low key,” she said, so it took some coaxing for her to sit for a birthday picture.
“If you must,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.