Celebrating Opal Goode — the rarest of gems

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Celebrating Opal Goode — the rarest of gemsFor more than a decade, the Ridgecrest community has marked the birthdays of its oldest (and one if its most beloved) residents. When Opal Goode turned 112 this week, representatives from all over the country tuned into the celebration.

Opal was born June 3, 1907, before her home state of Oklahoma had even been admitted to the union.

The American population had just recently eclipsed the number of free-roaming buffalo. Horses in our country still outnumbered motor vehicles. She is one of a tiny number of Americans who can remember both world wars.

Today, there are only seven other Americans who have achieved the exclusive ranks of the “Supercentenarian” — an individual 110 years or older (making her literally rarer than one in a million).

Opal was the valedictorian of her high school when she graduated in 1926. She later married Henry Goode, with whom she shared five decades.

She moved to Bakersfield during the Great Depression and worked at a Woolworth’s for $16 a week.

But, she adds, “Hard work never killed anyone.” She credits that work ethic and clean living as the secrets of her long life.

Accompanied by her daughter, Cheryl Bernhardi, Opal celebrated her birthday with a quiet, but festive, party with her friends at High Desert Haven on Monday.

On Tuesday she was honored in a high-profile public ceremony at Bank of America — her longtime employer dating back to 1946.

Bank of America officials noted that Opal is the eldest living employee of the corporation. At the China Lake branch, Opal worked her way up to manager during the course of her 20-year career.

Elected officials and members of the community turned out for the celebration, where members of the award-winning Burroughs High School Marching Band provided pomp to the circumstance.

Leaders presented accolades and proclamations to Opal, all the while speculating on the secret to her long life and ever-sharp wits.

Eunice Lee, on hand from State Sen. Shannon Grove’s office, commented on the gracious reception Opal offered to everyone who reached out to her.

“I think gratitude must be the real secret.”

In an interview with ABC 23 News out of Bakersfield — one of many to air this week — Opal offered the following advice, “If you want to do something — do it. Don’t say ‘someday’ … someday may never come.”

Pictured: Eunice Lee (left) presents to Opal, at right with her daughter, Cheryl Bernhardi, a flag that flew over the California Capitol — Photos by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-06-07