Happy as a child and happy at 101

Jasmine Bernarda credits ‘hard work, nice family, being a farm girl’ for longevity
Feb. 18, 2013 @ 09:13 PM

What does it take to celebrate your 101st birthday surrounded by family, friends, someone at the piano and the ability to shimmy on demand? Jasmine Carter Klopfenstein Bernarda doesn’t have a secret.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get this old and celebrate like this. It’s just great,” Bernarda said as she walked down the hall to her 101st birthday party on Monday at Carillon Assisted Living in Durham. She turned 101 on Sunday.

The theme for this party was the Roaring ’20s, and Bernarda was wearing a dress she already had in her closet – pink and black with fringe and a matching headband with feather. Her daughter, Cathy Klopfenstein, who also lives in Durham, was dressed for the ’20s as well.

“How do I look?” Bernarda asked Carillon staff as the pianist started playing and the guest of honor shimmied. She has a cane but didn’t use it.

Born when William Howard Taft was president, Bernarda grew up on a farm in South Carolina, outside Myrtle Beach. They grew tobacco, cotton, vegetables, fruit trees and “about everything you could grow on a farm.” Her job was milking three cows before school, or making breakfast. She didn’t like picking cotton because of the worms.

So what’s that secret again? Bernarda offered her life staples:

A lot of hard work, a nice family, wonderful parents, being a farm girl and still being happy. Eating proper food like collard greens, grits, cornbread and turnips. She was one of 12 children and is the last living. She had no problems getting boyfriends, she said.

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” Bernarda said. She married her first husband, Glenn Klopfenstein, and they raised their three children in Connecticut. Bernarda encouraged her children to go to college, and they did, all three graduating from the University of Connecticut, said siblings Cathy and Rex Klopfenstein, who came down for the party from Fairfax., Va. Their brother Alan died last year.

After being widowed, Bernarda lived with her second husband, Al Bernarda, for more than 20 years in Florida. She made Monday’s party dress for a party they attended. The couple once dressed as a six-pack for another party. After Al Bernarda’s death, Jasmine Bernarda moved to Durham in 2000 to be with her daughter.

After growing up during the Great Depression, Bernarda’s favorite president was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“When Roosevelt came in, he got us back on track,” she said. “I like Obama, too. He’s done well, too.” Bernarda always votes. In her 101 years, she has lived through two world wars, the space age, new technology and so many historic events. She reads books on her Kindle.

Linda Skipper, Bernarda’s great niece, said that when her great aunt turned 100, Skipper asked her what has changed the most in a century. Bernarda told her that everyone knows too much about everyone else.

The party underway, Bernarda stood in the middle of her friends and family and thanked them for the festive event. She danced a little and then told a story about her dancing days at Myrtle Beach. Like the time she rode in the rumble seat of a car in the rain all the way home. And the time when her date took off with her friend and got married that night. The next day he came to apologize and she told him where he could go. More stories were shared, birthday cake was cut, and Bernarda danced with her son, Rex Klopfenstein.

“I’ve had a good life. I’ve been happy, gone to a lot of places and am thankful for the great things in life,” Bernarda said. “I just wish that you all have a good time and remember me.”