By Tony DeGol
Oh, the drudgery of daily exercise, right?
Many people despise it, but Geraldine Cunningham embraces it. In fact, she faithfully rides her stationary bike every morning for at least 15 or 20 minutes.
Big deal, you say?
It actually is a big deal because Geraldine is 104 years young.
“See how easy that is?,” she asked as she gingerly eased herself onto the bike without assistance.
This charming lady really does make it look easy. So much so, that watching her confidently and youthfully pedal away, one could quickly forget her actual age.
She credits the morning bike ritual with keeping her going strong.
“I don’t want my legs to give out,” she insisted. “I think it helps, otherwise you just sit and fall apart. I get up from here, and I can walk in there. It strengthens my legs.”
As Thanksgiving approaches, Geraldine’s longevity and stamina are, indeed, reasons for her to be filled with gratitude.
Born on August 28, 1915, Geraldine is the mother of eight children. Her extended family is huge – 44 grandchildren, 98 great-grandchildren, and at least a dozen great, great-grandchildren.
Imagine that Thanksgiving table!
A member of Saint Benedict Parish in Carrolltown, Geraldine’s Catholic faith is – and always has been – an enormous part of her life.
“We went to church, and the priest would come every now and then to bless you and talk to you and make you feel as though you belonged to something, and I guess we did,” she recalled. “We grew up like that. We had our religion. That’s what we had. We went to church, we went here, we went there, and the days go.”
Prayer continues to be important to Geraldine.
“That’s why I lived so long,” she added with a chuckle.
Geraldine’s husband passed many years ago, and she now resides with her daughter and son-in-law in Ebensburg.
Since she only leaves the house for medical appointments, she no longer attends Mass. Her Pastor, Father Jude Brady, OSB, thoroughly enjoys his periodic visits with her.
“Geraldine is a beautiful person,” said Father Jude. “She is fun to speak with.”
He is right about that.
Her memory is sharp, her stories are engaging, and her smile is disarming.
Notably, she is a woman who seems to enjoy a spirit of peace as she looks back on a life well lived.
“We grew up on a farm, and that makes a big difference,” she stated. “Out on the farm, we had work to do. We did it and we enjoyed it because this person was coming to help and that person was coming to help. We couldn’t wait to go out and do it. We grew up appreciating people coming to help and us being able to go and help others when they needed it.”
Geraldine’s passion for hard work is evident all these years later as another part of her daily routine includes crocheting blankets for cancer patients and others in need of a little comfort.
“I work on this every day,” she boasted as she held up her latest creation – a blanket of various shades of purple.
She also enjoys reading, but she has no time for another popular hobby.
“I don’t watch TV because half of it is just garbage,” she noted with a laugh.
As Geraldine looks forward to another Thanksgiving, her loved ones are surely counting their blessings as well.
“Not too many people have the opportunity that I have,” admitted Rita Caretti, the daughter with whom Geraldine lives. “The fact that she’s in such good condition makes it even more joyful. Knowing that she’s comfortable and happy makes it twice as enjoyable for us.”
For Geraldine and her entire family, praise and thanksgiving to God will certainly be on the menu this holiday.
“For as old as I am, I have good health, and what I can do, other people can’t do,” admitted Geraldine. “So I guess I’m thankful for so much that I can do. I can just keep going. I have nothing holding me back. That’s the way you’re supposed to feel!”
Editor’s Note: Hear more from Geraldine Cunningham and see her in action on her stationary bike on Proclaim! TV on Sunday, November 24 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23. Happy Thanksgiving, Geraldine! Here’s to many more happy and healthy years!
[Photos: At top, Geraldine takes a break from crocheting to pose; she makes time for daily exercise on her stationary bike (middle inset); and she enjoys a moment with her daughter, Rita Caretti (bottom), with whom she resides.]