Opal Goode: 106 years of Goode memories
At her 106th birthday party on June 3, Ridgecrest resident Cora Opal Goode was all smiles. She can still walk unassisted, recognizes places and people and clearly is enjoying life. The surprise party was thrown for her at High Desert Haven by her daughter and son-in-law, Cheryl and Bruce Bernhardi, longtime Ridgecrest residents.
“I was 100-percent surprised,” said Opal, holding a green paper pinwheel a little girl made for her. “I’ve had a wonderful day.”
Family members arranged to have the marquee at the Carriage Inn read, “Time softly ticks, now she’s 106.” Last year on June 3, the marquee read, “Sakes alive, she’s 105.”
“Life’s been good to me,” Opal said simply.
Asked what her goals for the future are, she indicated that her hearing loss troubles her. “I wear two hearing aids. They help a lot but don’t solve the problem,” said Opal. She also copes with ongoing knee pain following a minor fall a month ago. “But my main ambition is to get to where I can hear again — I’ll suffer the knee if I could just hear again.
“I’d love to go back to my condo but the doctor says I can’t go back to living alone anymore.” Opal lived alone until age 105, doing her own housework, cooking and laundry; paying her own bills and “paddling my own canoe.”
Does she have any advice for people? “No,” she said firmly. “Everyone has their own life, their own problems, and we all handle things differently.”
Opal was born on June 3, 1907, in what was then “Indian Territory.” Five months later, on Nov. 16, 1907, Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma.
“When I was about nine months old, my mother said, we moved to Texas in a covered wagon. We moved back to Oklahoma when I was seven or eight. We crossed the Red River again in that covered wagon,” she said.
“I had wonderful parents. I had a good time. I thought everything was wonderful.” The eldest of three sisters, Opal remembered happy times. “My parents always had Christmas and birthday celebrations. We celebrated everything.”
She has Cherokee heritage on both sides of her family. “My great-grandfather on my father’s side was on the Cherokee Trail of Tears,” she said. “He was just a young boy. He met a Cherokee woman on the trail and married her. I never knew them.
“My great-grandfather on my mother’s side looked like a full-blood Indian, but I never knew how much. When he was 12, he carried water to the soldiers in the Civil War in a bucket. I’ll bet he could have told me some wonderful stories but I was too young then to be interested.”
Both her parents came from large families. Her father was from a family of 10, and her mother’s family included 11 children. “To my knowledge, none of them lived past 85. That was considered very, very old then. Most died in their late 70s. I don’t know why I’ve lived forever.”
Opal was the valedictorian at her graduation from Zanies Consoli-dated High School in Wilson, Okla. She later took night-school courses, including a course in banking.
She married Henry Goode and they moved to China Lake Aug. 7, 1945.
“The wind blew every cockeyed day and night. The streets weren’t paved, they weren’t even named. Maybe on somebody’s drawing they had names, but not in reality. There were no trees, no shrubs, just one big sandbar covered with tumbleweeds.”
The Goodes lived on base. While Henry was a civil servant for the Navy, Opal kept the home fires burning.
“I loved being a mother. When I had Cheryl, I wanted to be the best mother in the state of California. It’s not easy to be a good parent.”
Her hobbies were crocheting, sewing and reading.
Later Opal worked for the Bank of America for 25 years. She remembers some of her customers fondly.
After retirement the Goodes moved to Glendale on Jan. 19, 1970. Five years later, Henry died. Opal continued to live there for 32 years, to be near her youngest sister, a nurse, who lived a few doors away. Their middle sister married and had two daughters. Both sisters have since died, and Opal moved back to Ridgecrest in 2002 to be near Cheryl and her family.
For her 100th birthday, the family flew Opal back to Oklahoma, for the state’s 100th birthday celebration. “I’m older than the state of Oklahoma!” said Opal.
What are her best memories? “I had a good childhood and the best parents in the world. I loved being a stay-home mother and having the house clean and dinner ready when my husband came home. My daughter was healthy and always a pleasure — she still is.”
How does she want people to remember her?
“That I was a good person.”Story First Published: 2013-06-05