PIQUA — “When I turned 100, I said, ‘I’m getting old.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to get much older.’ And here I am — 106.”
That’s how Roma Kiser, resident at Piqua Manor, began the conversation for an interview on Friday morning; she will be turning 107 years old next week.
Kiser was born on Sept. 11, 1908, 93 years before the day was known for the terrorist attacks in American history . She grew up with three brothers and three sisters in the country in Piqua. Kiser recalled in her youth a lot of cooking and canning.
“We had a lot to be grateful for,” she said, “You push a button and something comes on; we didn’t have that (then).”
Kiser’s oldest memory is from the age of three in 1911; she recalls staying with her aunt and uncle, with her aunt being sick. She needed medication and Kiser, then a toddler, wanted to help.
“I said, ‘I’ll get her pills for her,’” Kiser said, “I stood on a stool and I got some soup beans. Took ‘em to her (and said) ‘Here Aunt Bertha, your pills!’ She said, ‘Honey, those are beans!’ And I said, ‘No, they’re pills!’” Kiser laughed and said, “I remember all of those things.”
Kiser always wanted to cook at a restaurant growing up, even when she was told she couldn’t. Against her critics, she became a cook for 25 years, specializing in pies. She also enjoyed gardening and going to church. Before Kiser moved to Piqua Manor, she was cleaning and cooking big meals at 102.
“I was always busy; I was never lazy,” she said. “I told my doctor, ‘I don’t want to go to the nursing home.’ He said, ‘Look, Roma, you’re 102, you can’t be alone.’ I had fallen a couple of times and just got back up. It didn’t bother me.”
Kiser was married twice and had 11 children with her first husband and one child with her second husband. Her surviving children are Esther Dyke, Beverly Simmons, Terry Spain, Judy Hemmingway, and Raymond Kiser. Kiser is Roma’s child from her second marriage.
Raymond, 66, lives with Roma at the nursing home.
“It’s crazy, but I enjoy being with her,” Raymond said in response to what it is like being with his mother at the nursing home. “I’ve learned a lot about her being in here.” The mother and son eat supper together and like to talk on the patio.
Roma has 30 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, and lost track of how many great-great grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren she has.
Linda Cota, 60, is Roma’s oldest grandchild. Roma was 46 when Cota was born. Cota’s mother was Roma’s oldest daughter, who has passed from a stroke.
“I learned about God from (Roma),” Cota said. “I’m a better person because of her. She has taught me so much in life and she’s just very remarkable to me. I’ve always been very close with her.”
Although Roma says she has bad eyesight and hearing, her complexion glows at sight and she maintains a good posture standing while walking with her walker. Her memory is also impeccable.
“Her memory is unbelievable,” Cota said. “If I tell her I’m coming here on a certain day and I come a different day, she knows.” If family members forget another member’s phone number, they ask Roma for it.
Every night at 7 p.m., Roma prays for her family, friends, and residents and workers at Piqua Manor.
“Life is the way you make it,” Roma said. “If you want to be happy, you got to have the love for others and pray for them, ‘cause we are only here one day at a time. We don’t know about tomorrow.”
Roma will be celebrating her 107th birthday at Piqua Manor on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 2-5 p.m.
Reach Amy Barger at (937) 451-3340 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.