KINGMAN - The day Bea Anderson was born, the U.S. had just 46 states, William Howard Taft was president, and Henry Ford was making a killing selling 10,000 cars a year.
A lot has changed in 100 years, and much of it in ways Anderson never thought it would. But one thing that's always stayed the same has been the way she treasures each of her 36,525 days as a gift, laden with friends, family and the simple pleasures of a life well-lived.
Anderson was born Gladys Beatrice Fincham in the tiny village of Colfax, Ill., on May 12, 1910. An eleventh-generation descendent of Mayflower pilgrim John Tilley, she spent much of the first half of her life living on her family's farm. Her interest in politics eventually drew her to nearby Bloomington, where she worked for the McLean County Clerk's office for 18 years. One of her fondest memories was working elections, when she got to meet conservative stalwart Barry Goldwater, who admired her Daughters of the American Revolution pin.
Anderson married her high school sweetheart, George "Bill" Anderson, shortly after she graduated, and the two remained together for more than 50 years before Bill died of lung cancer in 1979.
"There's no one to replace him, I tell you," she said. "All he wanted was a nice houseboat and to get out on the Colorado River and fish. And we did. We had a ball."
The couple moved to Lake Havasu City around 1969, and Anderson has called Mohave County her home ever since. "This is really more of a home than Illinois was, though I still love Illinois," she said.
After Bill died, Anderson moved into a modest house in a quiet neighborhood on Valentine Avenue with her daughter, Avis Amann, where she still lives today. And while she has to use a walker to get around, she's still in remarkably good health with a mind still sharp after 100 years. Like most centenarians, Anderson said the key to her longevity has been finding ways to keep herself active.
"I play party bridge pretty much all the time," she said. "In fact, I'm going this afternoon."
Since her eyes are still good, she also likes to drive around town, but Anderson says she's very careful these days. "My husband was a driver's examiner and he taught me many things, like 'never be in a hurry,'" she said.
Having lived through everything from World War I to the inauguration of the first black president, Anderson said it's hard to put into words how much the world has changed in her lifetime, some for the better, some not. But while technology might improve and popular music and fashions may change as often as the seasons, Anderson said some of the truly best things in life never do.
"This is still the best place in the world," she said. "We're just so lucky to be here."
And while she might not agree with all the changes that have happened - she was a big McCain supporter, and even got a letter from the senator wishing her a happy birthday - Anderson said the past century has also taught her the importance of being open to unfamiliar opinions and experiences.
"We have to respect who we've got in there the best that we can. We can't be stupid," she said. "You have to be broad-minded - if you don't, you're lost."
Anderson will celebrate her 100th birthday from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Kathryn Heidenreich Adult Center at 1776 Airway Ave., along with more than 60 of her closest friends and confidants. But she's not asking for any special presents to mark the occasion, being content with the same thing she's gotten each year for the past 99.
"I don't want anything fancy," she said. "Just friendship and love."