Ever since Muriel Perkins was 3 years old, she has wished upon Thanksgiving turkey wishbones to reach her 100th birthday.
Sept. 1, she did just that. The longtime resident of The Terraces at Los Altos turned 100, commemorated with a special birthday celebration at the retirement community.
Perkins is the second-oldest resident at The Terraces, where she has lived independently in her own apartment for 24 years.
“I was determined not to let myself become an old lady,” she said.
After waking up each morning, Perkins makes herself breakfast, a meal she has rarely missed her entire life and something she said is one of the secrets to her old age. Breakfast is simple: fruit, yogurt, a bowl of cereal – her favorites are Post Toasties or Rice Krispies – and nuts, which she said give her protein for exercising later in the day.
Then she heads off to one of the community’s exercise classes that stress stretching and aerobics.
But while she always makes her own breakfast and lunch, Perkins eats dinner in the dining area, one of her favorite things about The Terraces because she never has to eat alone, she said.
Perkins grew up in Berkeley and attended Berkeley High School, where she met her husband, and went on to work an office job.
However, following the onset of World War II, Perkins and her husband, Dr. William Perkins, moved to a U.S. Army research facility in Utah, where they spent the remainder of the war. A fan of warm weather, Perkins said the desert in Utah was a welcome change from the fog in Berkeley that would roll in every afternoon.
After the war, Perkins and her husband sought out warm weather once again, moving to a one-bedroom house in north Palo Alto, which the couple remodeled using floor plans she designed.
A few years later, they sold the house and moved to their first home in Los Altos, on Sunkist Lane – a short distance from Los Altos High School, which their two children would eventually attend.
“I’ve seen the town grow up, and it’s been a great place to live,” Perkins said of Los Altos. “It still has a bit of (the small-town) feeling.”
Before Los Altos grew into the city it is today, Perkins said apricot orchards dominated the landscape, taking up blocks of the city right next to her home.
And she never left the orchards behind. She and her husband eventually moved to a new home in Los Altos Hills, which had its own neighboring apricot trees. And when she moved to The Terraces, it had a neighboring orchard as well.
Perkins said the orchards nurtured her and her husband’s passion for gardening, as they would grow their own vegetables and nuts among the apricot trees.
She still gardens by growing succulents inside her residence.
Now a great-grandmother, Perkins said she is amazed at the innovations she has witnessed in the world, especially modern medicine’s conquering of polio.
She seems ready to experience what comes next.
“I’ve enjoyed life,” Perkins said. “I’ve never wanted to quit.”