When people ask Denair resident Hazel Wade Gomes her secret to longevity, the soon-to-be 100-year-old doesn’t quite know what to say.
“So many people ask me, ‘Well, how did you do that?’ I really didn’t realize it until it had already happened...my age didn’t bother me because I never stopped to think about it,” she said.
Wade Gomes will turn 100 on Sept. 30, but has already celebrated like royalty. Her family threw her a birthday bash at the end of August that saw over 160 friends and family members travel to the Denair Community Center from places near and far, with some even making the trek from Alaska to see Wade Gomes blow out her birthday candles.
The former kindergarten teacher said she was shocked to see some of her former students, now grown, attend as well.
“I felt really honored,” Wade Gomes said. “I was really thrilled and appreciated it all.”
Wade Gomes was raised on a farm in Missouri and taught in the state for 11 years before she eventually moved to Denair in 1961. In addition to Denair schools, she also taught in Ceres and Hughson while raising her four children. Thanks to her agriculture roots, she’s no stranger to farm animals and she even used to ride a horse to class in high school. This made Wade Gomes’ entrance into her birthday party via a buggy pulled by mules all the more meaningful.
“I fell in love with those mules,” she said of her special ride. “It was nice, because I rode in the buggy many a time with my mother, father, four sisters and two brothers.”
Today, Wade Gomes keeps herself busy by traveling with her RV club, crocheting, gardening and sewing. Her advice to today’s youth is simple, she said: don’t drink, smoke or do drugs and never give up.
“Keep going and doing things for yourself and others,” she said. “Don’t think about your age, just keep going.”