With a 50% chance of living past 106, according to a 2018 study from the journal Science it is an opportunity to meet an individual who has lived over a century. Catherine Kunz – born in 1917 – was able to celebrate her 106th birthday on June 15, 2023.
The community at her assisted living facility gathered on her special day to give her birthday wishes and share cake. On it, her age was written in white frosting calligraphy. Sara Mendoza – the daughter of a resident at the living facility – brought the cake for Kunz.
“I ordered the cake through Albertson’s and they had to call me to make sure they were really writing 106, and that it wasn’t some sort of typo,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza and Kunz have been friends for close to two years. Kunz has lived through some of the world’s biggest historical events but does not look over 80 years old, Mendoza said.
“She has so much history and knowledge, and she is still so sharp … She is resilient. I just admire her tenacity and I think she has a lot of gusto,” Mendoza said.
When reflecting on Kunz’s strength, Mendoza said that she admires her willpower. “To have lived so long and still get up every morning with the intent to be productive – that is amazing. I hope I’ll age as gracefully as Catherine has.”
Elva Munoz, a faculty staff member, said that she would like to be as independent as Kunz in her old age.
“I can’t do an awful lot of things that I wanna do, and yet there are people who can do even less,” Kunz said.
Relationships have been important to Kunz – particularly with her late husband and the close friends that they shared.
“The girl that I roomed with in college – her name was Grace – introduced him and I,” Kunz said. “She had a boyfriend of her own. The four of us would just be couples together. We were all very close.”
Grace would then marry her boyfriend and have a son, Don, that Kunz considers family. He still continues to visit her, Kunz said.
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Originally from Iowa, Kunz moved to Tijeras, New Mexico with her husband and built a house with him in Sedillo Hill.
“We had about six acres (of land). We could see from Tijeras to Golden (Eagle). That is where we spread (my husband’s) ashes. It’s where I’d like mine to be spread too,” Kunz said.
With many friends and family there to celebrate her long life, Kunz said that she felt loved. Kunz’s son, Douglas Kunz, also cares for the 106 year old among other people at the facility. He was also in attendance at the birthday party.
“Doug takes care of me,” Kunz said as they ate cake together, “He’s here for me and brings me everything I need.”
Kelsa Mendoza is the copy editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @kelsar4in.
Kelsa Mendoza is the copy editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached email@example.com on Twitter at @kelsar4in.