By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by Alicia Doyle/Ventura County Star

Centenarian is ‘one feisty little lady'

October 28, 2014

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - The guest of honor wearing periwinkle blue with a string of pearls around her neck, Mary Ortiz said she has “no secret” for living 100 years.

“It just comes natural,” said Ortiz, who turned 100 on Oct. 4. “Before you know it, it’s gone.”

A resident at Vintage Simi Hills in Simi Valley, Ortiz celebrated her birthday on Oct. 5 with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who reminisced about the centenarian’s longevity.

“She used to tell me it was because she ate oatmeal for breakfast every morning,” said Liz Greeley, of Simi Valley, her oldest granddaughter.

“She was not a person who went to the gym, but she always walked places. Family was important to her. And she was very involved with her church.”

Ortiz was living alone in her own house at age 98 when a fall prompted her move to Vintage Simi Hills.

“She has a caring heart that is so respected,” said Jacobo Flores, assistant program director at Vintage. “She has so many life experiences.”

Born in San Diego with the maiden name Lopez, she is the last survivor of seven siblings.

Her husband died in 1993 after they’d been married 60 years and raised three children. Their family grew with 9 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

“She worked for a short time for Lockheed as a riveter, but mostly she was a housewife taking care of her three children while her husband was working in the Navy,” Greeley said. “And because she was so tiny and small, they used to make her go under the underbelly of the plane and work.”

Added her son, Gene Ortiz, of Simi Valley; “Sometimes they’d have to grab her feet and pull her out.”

Mary Ortiz, who stands 4 feet 11 inches tall, joked that she liked the Lockheed job.

“I was short enough to get down to the bottom,” she said. “Boy, that was the joy of my life.”

Gene Ortiz remembers learning life lessons from his mother early on.

“I’d ask her questions and she’d say, ‘You do what you think is best,’ throwing it back at me,” he said. “I said, ‘What if I make a mistake?’ She said, ‘I’ll let you know.’

“That made us three kids self-reliant, which was right because we didn’t want to disappoint her; it was her way of teaching. She also taught us ... don’t be afraid. You can fail but you can get up, too.”

Her great-granddaughter Megan Greeley, 23, of Monterey, said, “She’s one feisty little lady. She’s seen a lot in her lifetime, and through it all, she’s still the same little Mary.”

Gloria Beverage, Mary Ortiz’s daughter, said her mother and father taught the value of giving back early on.

“Even when they were newly married in the Depression era and there wasn’t much money to go around ... they’d take $5 out of their wages for the week and give it to my grandfather to help him,” recalled Beverage, of Rockland.

Mary Ortiz said helping others comes naturally.

“When you’ve got so much,” she said, “why not give it to those that need it?”

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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