Pat Hirzel, West Plains, turned 100 on Thursday. The occasion was honored with two birthday celebrations, one at The Timbers, where she lived until two months ago, and another at West Vue Nursing Home Pleasant Valley Manor, where she lives now.
Hirzel was featured in an Oct. 9, 2018, Quill article written by The Duffer Reports columnist Steve Totty, when she was 96. Totty had met Hirzel at the North Terra Golf Course, where she was playing on the practice green.
She was born in 1922 in Los Angeles. Her father was a tennis instructor, and she played from the age of 6. During the Great Depression, her father sold tennis balls for a nickel apiece to help make ends meet; Hirzel and her brother Jerry walked around a circuit of tennis courts and also sold tennis balls to help out.
“I was just little, and it used to embarrass me so much,” she recalls. “One day my dad told me I had done a good job and asked what I wanted for dinner, and I said ‘cherry pie!’”
According to Totty’s article, by age 17 she was a nationally-ranked tennis player, fifth in doubles and eighth in singles. She became a tennis instructor herself and traveled the country giving lessons. She learned golf in her spare time, Totty added, playing tennis in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Hirzel improved at golf and became Orlando City Champ in 1955. Her travels continued to take her around the country as a tennis instructor, a job she did for 40 years. In the ‘70s, she got a degree in library science.
Hirzel was living back on the West Coast in 1998 when a niece living in Ava encouraged her to move in. She moved to Mtn. Grove in 1999, and later met friends Philip Schloss and his wife, Kathy, of West Plains. Schloss met Hirzel while playing bridge, and would travel to her house in Mtn. Grove to help mow the lawn and do chores around the house.
About five years ago, she was convinced to move to West Plains where she would be closer to Schloss, and he would be better able to help her. Hirzel moved into The Timbers, an age-55 and older community off of K Highway, and only moved into Pleasant Valley Manner in June.
“When she couldn’t play golf any more, she became fascinated with football,” Schloss said, adding she is a fan of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“He better be good this year, or I’m off him,” Hirzel commented.
Schloss said Hirzel made a living at teaching tennis, but her passion was golf.
When asked how she achieved longevity, Hirzel answered, “From the age of 6 to 60, I just ran on cement and walked on grass,” referring to the physical activity she got from tennis and golf. “Just healthy living.”
She still drove a car until last year, and wouldn’t let Schloss get a disabled parking tag for her, insisting on parking further out to get more steps in. Schloss pointed out Hirzel isn’t on any medications, and had a heart valve replacement a year ago, and is one of the oldest patients to have the procedure.
Hirzel’s mother Katherine lived to age 99, Schloss said, and would have lived longer had it not been for a second broken hip.
The United States has had 17 different presidents during Hirzel’s lifetime, Schloss said, putting some perspective on the history she’s seen.
She has outlived her parents, Katherine and Gerald Hover, and brother Jerry, but she has a younger half-sister, Jena Harris, who lives in Ojai, Calif.
When asked what advice she would give to young people, Hirzel replied, “I would advise kids to learn something they like a lot, and stick with it. That’s it.”
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