100-year-old Charleston woman finds fountain of youth by doing water aerobics
Do you want to know the secret to living a long and healthy life? According to Marjorie Hutchinson Howard, who turned 100 on Aug. 21, the secret is simply “prayer, study, work, exercise, eat and sleep.”
Twice a week, Mrs. Marjie, as she’s called by friends and family, sticks to that principle by attending water aerobics at St. Andrew’s Family Fitness Plus in West Ashley for the past 20 years.
Howard is very alert for her age, and while she walks gingerly, she does not need assistance. She is the vision of a proper Southern lady, complete with a genuine smile and pearl necklace.
Every Monday and Wednesday, friends Oliver and Elizabeth Addison pick her up around 7:30 a.m. When she arrives at the center, she does a lap in the pool before her aerobics class starts. After her class, the Addisons take her home around 9:30 a.m. This has been the routine for the past four years.
Howard said she got involved with water aerobics at St. Andrews in the early ’90s after her husband died. She found the perfect opportunity to get active when a flier came in the mail about the opening of the then-new fitness center. Her husband loved the water and they were avid boaters, so it was only natural for her to continue that passion with water aerobics.
Rene Richardson, front desk manager of the fitness center, has known Howard for five years. Richardson said Howard “always walks in with a smile.”
She also said that the aerobics class of about 25 active older adults meets at least once a month to socialize. Another perk, other than making friends, is that every patron is awarded free membership for life when they turn 90.
The fitness center and Howard’s water aerobics classmates organized a 100th birthday party for her, where they welcomed her with flowers, cards, plenty of food and cake.
Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon, who serves on the West Ashley Senior Services Coordinating Committee, was there to help Howard celebrate. Condon said that it’s great when seniors choose to stay active and that programs like the ones at St. Andrews help the community do that.
Howard’s grandson, Asim Quick, and his wife, Jennifer, and daughter Maya, traveled from Richmond, Va., to be with her at the party.
“We didn’t expect the turnout to be this big. It really shows how many people she’s influenced,” Asim Quick said.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley honored Howard by giving her a key to the city for her contribution to the community. She was an educator for 43 years and taught subjects including math, English and journalism. She was the first African-American teacher of the year in Charleston County after integration while teaching at C.A. Brown High School.
Howard’s daughter, Sandra Quick, who lives with her in West Ashley, said that her mother is very active outside of the fitness center. She exercises at home, does her own banking, cleans her home and participates in a bridge club. Her mother even took care of her when she was ill recently.
“I think when you have a need to live, you live longer,” Quick said about her mother.
She also said that her mother inspires her to be more active.
Quick’s son, Jamal, said his grandmother told him that if she goes to aerobics class with a slight pain, the water “sucks it out.” Howard’s instructors at the center agreed that water aerobics is beneficial to health. Many physical therapists come to the center for water therapy with their clients.
“When someone masters their craft, they’re inspiring. She’s mastered living,” Brian Burke, general manager of the fitness center, said about Howard.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560.