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Rosella Mathieu - January 2007

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Rosella Mathieu, 100, passionate about life!
Rosella describes herself as a "pioneer herbist." The eldest of six children, her parents were Hungarian immigrants. She lived in Ohio until age 95, then moved to California to be near her son, 13 grandchildren and great grandchildren, with whom she is very involved.
          Rosella met her late husband, Aaron, when they were freshman at Ohio State University in 1925; they married secretly while in college. He was an editor and publisher. She created the Fragrant Herb Farm, where she grew fragrant plants and flowers and turned them into potpourris, which she sold.  Later, at her husband's urging, Rosella wrote a book titled "Herb Growers Complete Guide" (1951), which focused on fragrant plants and flowers that keep their scents when dried. She was a popular speaker at garden and flower clubs in her area of specialty. 
          Pointing out that her love of herbs was something she cultivated in middle age, Rosella encourages others to find their "passion" for something that will maintain their interest in later years. For over half her life, Rosella has been growing, selling and writing about herbs, as well as experimenting with preserving their fragrances. In 1998, she was honored as the oldest living member of the Herb Society of America. She plans on contributing to the society her "mountains of research" on preserving fragrances.
          Rosella believes that the combination of a healthy diet, keeping active and cultivating close relationships with friends, as well as family, are important ingredients to enjoying one's senior years. "I was married for 70 years, she says. I'm used to having a man in my life. It's very important when you're older and lose dear ones that you have someone really close to you." She is also a proponent of "second love," romantic relationships in later years. She is heartened to see it becoming more acceptable and joins a growing number of elders who are just saying no to loneliness in later years.

"We never outgrow our need for love and companionship."

          Always active, Rosella played tennis until she was 80 and swam until age 90. Walking is now her exercise. She says: "I think you must keep walking, even if one has to use a walker. You can't give up exercises you're accustomed to."
          Although she acknowledges the changes in her physical activities over the years, her mind is sharp, helped by her interest in others and in the world around her. Her advice: You have to be alert and open.

Overcoming obstacles
          Rosella has had arthritis since she was seven and has struggled with other life-long ailments, but she hasn't let them stop her from enjoying life to the fullest. At 100, she maintains a keen interest in what's happening in the world and particularly in medical advances, both traditional and holistic. She credits her brother, Milton Feher, an internationally known classical dancer, who taught her a great deal about health and pain control, based on his experience and the system he devised to control the pain from spinal and knee injuries he sustained in his 20s, which almost ended his career. Milton developed a method of relaxation, using the power of the brain to maintain health and later founded a dance studio in New York City teaching his method of relaxation. Coincidentally, Lynn Adler, founder of NCAP wrote about Milton in her book "Centenarian: The Bonus Years" (Health Press). Following is an excerpt about Milton. 

     In New York City, former professional dancer Milton Feher has also developed a combination of exercise, relaxation, and dance that he has been teaching for almost fifty years. Milton was forced to retire from the Broadway stage in 1941 due to arthritis in his knees. It happened all of a sudden," he tells. Miltons very successful career, performing in such popular shows as Song of Norway and Id Rather be Right by George M. Cohan, was cut short in its prime by the affliction that limits so many older people. I then developed a way to cure myself after I gave up on doctors," he explains, and Ive been teaching people of all ages ever since. The concept is to relax into a straight line and to keep the body centered. The problem people have, and the reason so many older people fall, is that people are moving their weight off their feet. The key is to always feel that your body is resting on your feet and not let it get away from you. It sounds simple, but it takes concentration and practice."

Present activities
Rosella has been keeping a journal of her journey through her later years and is contemplating writing a book of her experiences as a guide to others. "It's hard to get answers to questions you have as you get older, she says. I think that's one thing I can make a contribution on." She cares passionately about others, particularly as they enter the uncharted territory of life after 80.
Currently, she is at work revising her for herb growers. "I like keeping busy and this is one way for me to apply a principle of my life: When you help people to help themselves, you also help yourself." 

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