TERRE HAUTE —
Some people are an inspiration by just being themselves.
Rosie Dragon has that rare gift.
A dozen people standing around her Wednesday afternoon in the cozy lobby of the Terre Haute Transit Utility could sense it. They gathered in the city’s downtown bus terminal to toast her 100th birthday with a cake, a card, and a lifetime bus pass, provided by the city. Mayor Duke Bennett and Transportation Director Brad Miller presented the honors to Rosie, as a loyal rider. Those officials, along with family, friends and transit staffers, generated most of the conversation.
Rosie smiled, listened quietly, and spoke softly. Her greeters paid close attention to her words.
After all, being a centenarian is special. Though their ranks are increasing, just 53,364 Americans were 100 years old or more when the 2010 Census was counted — less than the population of Terre Haute.
Everyone wanted to hear Rosie’s advice on living such a long, healthy life, as a woman who lives in the same southside home she bought in 1940, cuts her own grass with a non-motorized push mower, cooks her meals, sews, does her laundry, irons her clothes, rakes her leaves, and buys her groceries.
Rosie’s secret formula for longevity?
“Walk,” she said, simply.
With one word, she spoke volumes. Maybe a few more long walks by us all would brighten this community’s less-than-stellar overall health.
For Rosie, that practice started shortly after she was born in Terre Haute, back in 1913. She’s never stopped. “I love to walk,” Rosie said. “I walk all the time.”
Rather than drive a car, Rosie has typically walked or ridden the city buses, said her sister, Ann Pence. Living on the south side, she worked on the city’s north side at Columbia Enameling and Stamping Mill at 19th and Beech streets for 40 years, handling shifts of 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., or 2 to 10 p.m. When she pulled late-shift overtime, Rosie would walk home when quitting time went past the city bus route hours.
She embodies the “greatest generation,” as author Tom Brokaw called folks who lived through the Depression of the 1930s.
Rosie grew up as one of seven children of Romanian immigrants Pete and Buzash Dragon on a farm south of Terre Haute. Rosie and another sister had to leave school to help support the family after their mother died. “She basically raised me, because Mother died when I was 18 months old, and Dad was left with all these kids,” Ann, 85, said of Rosie.
The siblings experienced long lives, and three — Rosie, Ann and their 88-year-old brother, Dave — survive. “Health-wise, it seems the family has good luck,” Ann said.
On Wednesday, Rosie came prepared to enjoy the festivities, and the cake, rather than to dish out bits of wisdom. She offered a few hints to those of us hoping to see our personal odometer hit triple digits. She likes sweet potatoes, a staple on their family farm decades ago. “Well, we used to live on sweet potatoes,” Rosie explained. She drinks water regularly, family members said.
And she maintains a generous, humble soul.
“My sister was always a giver,” Dave Dragon said. “She believed you should be good to your neighbors. And she just rolled with the punches. Her life was hard, but she never complained.”
Instead, she’s stayed active. And, yes, she walks.
“That’s what she tells me, ‘If it hurts, just keep moving. Don’t stop,’” said Cheryl Lough, Rosie’s great-niece. Fittingly, Cheryl became a track coach.
With her lifetime pass, Rosie may walk to the bus stop a bit more often now. Unlike other generations, hers understood the value of mass transit, said Miller, who oversees the city buses. Rosie began riding the buses in her 20s. In those days, the buses were packed. “Yes, full,” Rosie confirmed. “I’d stand up from the time I got on till I got off.” She’s still a regular. The drivers know Rosie, and gave her a birthday card at the celebration. The mayor gave her a certificate and read it aloud.
“It says, ‘Congratulations, Rosie Dragon. You will ride forever,’” the mayor said as she held the lifetime bus pass.
She smiled and quipped, “You should’ve given me that 10 years ago,” drawing chuckles from the mayor and everybody else.
Her spirit made me smile, too, as I left the decorated bus station lobby. I was glad that I’d walked there to witness it.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Some people are an inspiration by just being themselves.
- Local & Bistate
State to consider ISU housing deal
A multi-million dollar project to provide downtown housing for Indiana State University students, part of a public/private partnership, is on the agenda for the Dec. 20 meeting of the State Budget Committee.
Jamie Poorman on Thursday held a small hand generator. With her right hand, she cranked the handle at a fast-enough pace for the attached light bulb to light up.
Council OKs Bennett’s 3-year loan
The Terre Haute City Council handed Mayor Duke Bennett a minor victory Thursday night by approving a three-year, $5 million, short-term loan to help float the city’s general fund between bi-annual property tax payments from the state.
Potatoes, coffee at the Grounds
Carbohydrates and caffeine may soon find a delicious mix in an new downtown Terre Haute business.
ISU gets approval for unique program
Indiana State University has received approval to offer a first-of-its-kind program in the state: a bachelor’s degree in applied science.
Power outage overnight disrupts West Vigo students
A power outage at West Vigo High School and middle school overnight Wednesday caused some disruption for students Thursday morning.
County releases unpaid excise disbursements
Vigo County officials are dispersing more than $800,000 in undistributed excise tax funds from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles that had accumulated on monthly bank reconcilements for years.
Tip leads to arrest of three on drug charges
Three Terre Haute residents were arrested Thursday after Indiana State Police received a tip about methamphetaine activity a a house in the 1400 block of South Ninth Street.
Children’s panel eyes meth, child abuse link
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A state commission seeking ways to improve the lives of Indiana’s most vulnerable children is forming a task force to investigate whether there’s a link between methamphetamine arrests and child welfare cases.
Family escapes early morning fire
A Terre Haute family escaped a house fire that destroyed their residence on North Ninth Street early today.
Vigo County Jail Log: Dec. 12, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, based on jail records.
Cold snap has Indiana residents bundling up
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — People across Indiana are bundling up against colder temperatures than parts of the state saw in either of the past two winters.
Gather ’round the tree
As snow fell Wednesday night, chestnuts roasted on a open fire and holiday music filled the air outside one Terre Haute school.
Oil drilling at ISU to start next week
Oil drilling is about to begin on Indiana State University property.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiration will continue to flow through Valley
The Wabash River deserves a spot on lists of New Year’s resolutions.
ISU again looking at reduced state funding
Indiana State University is preparing for nearly $1.4 million in funding cuts, as the state responds to an unexpected drop in tax collections for the first five months of the fiscal year.
Driver survives wild crash
A Terre Haute man is facing drunk driving allegations after a dramatic crash about 4 a.m. Wednesday in southern Vigo County.
Honoring his word
John Etling of Catholic Charities Terre Haute agreed to have his hair dyed orange if the Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice of the Wabash Valley raised $5,000 on Orange Friday.
Hearing postponed for ex-doctor in Omaha killings
A preliminary hearing on an attempted burglary charge has been pushed back for a former doctor accused of killing four people with ties to an Omaha medical school that fired him in 2001.
Pre-sentence report ordered for Archer
A pre-sentence report has been ordered for a man accused of killing his wife and dumping her body in an Ohio ditch.
Ross found guilty of battery
A Terre Haute man was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter but convicted of battering a man who later died at the Vigo County Jail.
South dance clinic set for Saturday
“Dancing Around the Christmas Tree” is the theme of Terre Haute South Vigo High School’s Dance Team Clinic set for Saturday in the school’s auxiliary gym.
Plea submitted for man accused of killing brother
A plea agreement has been submitted for a Terre Haute man accused of killing his brother in 2012.
Thieves stealing copper wire from Interstate light posts
Two state agencies have combined efforts to combat highway lighting wire theft.
Jury returns split verdict in Ross assault case
A Vigo County jury has found James Madison Ross IV not guilty of involuntary manslaughter but guilty of battery resulting in serious bodily injury.
Car rolls several times in a.m. crash, drunk driving suspected
A Terre Haute man is facing drunk driving allegations after a dramatic crash about 4 a.m. today in southern Vigo County.
Equipment to arrive Dec. 14 for oil drilling at Indiana State
After nearly two years of planning and surveying, oil drilling is about to begin on Indiana State University property.
Year nearing its end: 12-month celebration of Wabash spanned Valley
Throughout this year, events and activities have focused attention on the Wabash River through Terre Haute, Vigo County and surrounding counties. It’s been called 2013 Year of the River. On Tuesday, Art Spaces Inc. and Arts Illiana presented a wrapup of the observance’s events.
Cultural planning: Consultant to help city reach arts district designation
Terre Haute officials want a portion of the downtown to be designated by the Indiana Arts Commission as one of the state’s cultural arts districts.
Sheriff: School officers have been a win-win
Placing armed officers in all Vigo County schools not only protects children and staff from violent acts, it also has helped prevent negative behaviors in the schools — both on the part of students and adults.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- State to consider ISU housing deal