Petaluma Profile: Thelma Crumrin turns 101-years-old

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Offering a big smile and a firm handshake, Thelma Crumrin opens our conversation with a classic story.

“One-hundre-one years ago, I was so small when I was born, my grandfather said, ‘She looks like a little mouse.’ So they bundled me up in a chest of drawers until I grew up a bit. My sister, Jane, arrived a couple years after, and she was so tiny, they had to warm her up in the oven. When my sister turned three-months-old, my mother died, so Grandma Mann took me to care for, and mother’s mother took Jane. After he married my wonderful stepmother, Daddy moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. It was a great city. My stepmother had a car and was always busy doing something. She belonged to the Home Demonstration Club and even met Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Crumrin has been a resident of Springfield Place in Petaluma for about six years. Last month, just before Mardi Gras, she celebrated her 101st birthday, and the party held for her was reportedly a spectacular event.

“I’m big on birthdays, and I guess people know this,” she tells. “I received 208 cards, many with a frog on them. My high school’s mascot was a frog, and I’ve loved them ever since.”

From a lifetime of memories, Crumrin has a few she is especially fond of, and is well practiced at telling people about. Explaining that her first husband’s company transferred him to Memphis, and with her son David, she lived “a pretty good life” in Tennessee.

“I met and married Paul Crumrin in 1958, and a few years later I was working as the secretary for a cattle company in a little town called Whitehaven,” Crumrin recalls, going on to describe a day when, by chance, she encountered the legendary disc jockey George Klein, and an even more legendary friend.

“One lunchtime, the cutest guy in a white polo shirt drove up beside me in his brand-new Thunderbird,” she says. “‘I’m here to buy a bull and I need to see Mr. Mercer,’ he said. I directed him to the office, which was only as far away as from here to the front desk. Then George Klein opened the side door, I scooted inside, and Elvis Presley gave me a ride. That was a good day. A very good day.”

Another good day, she says, was the time she went to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta.

“I was an avid golfer, and was working as a telephone service rep for the Social Security Administration,” she says. “One day I got a call from a man and we ended up talking about golf. I was real nice to him, just like I was to everybody. He asked me, ‘Have you ever been to the Masters? I’m sending you two tickets.’ So I invited my golfing friend Betty Norworth — who worked for the FBI — to join me. I had a friend who worked for Holiday Inn (headquartered in Memphis), and he arranged a place to stay in Augusta. So we were there when Raymond Floyd won. I’m very fond of Raymond Floyd.”

Crumrin explains that she relocated to Petaluma in July, 2013, to be closer to her son David.

“David and his family already lived here,” she says, “and he said to me ‘Mother, you need to live in Petaluma.’ So he found this assisted living apartment in Springfield Place. I’m a bit of a pack rat, and it took some careful planning to move me in. I’m very sentimental and love to live in the past, so I’m taking my time to go through boxes and weed-out some stuff.”

Crumrin says she’s trying to put here treasured things in the hands of people who will appreciate them.

“I recently went through my high school album and found a baby’s birth announcement, so I got the address and mailed it to the now grown-up baby,’ she says. “People always ask me to tell something about me, and I share my good memories. I love to talk about my childhood, but all the old friends are gone. My sister died December 13, 2016, and I miss her terribly.”

Summing up our conversation, she concludes by sharing a bit of personal wisdom.

“All I want out of life is good health and happiness for everybody,” she says. “I sit on the side of the bed every morning and thank God that I can walk and take care of myself. You have to be thankful for what you’ve got and make the most of every day.”

For Crumrin, making the most of a day includes keeping things tidy, planning and organizing every detail.

“I like to have things be organized,” Crumrin smiles. “I’ve even picked out my epitaph — ‘I never sought wealth or fame, I just want you to smile when you hear my name.’ ”

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