Outside of a little arthritis in her right knee, Ora Dodson is described as being in “mint condition” by her great-nephew Michael Shute, and that’s saying a lot because Dodson is celebrating her 100th birthday today.
“There’s going to be a bash somewhere, but my friends won’t tell me where,” said Dodson, who was born in Glasgow, Ky., and spent two years there before moving with her parents to the Southside of Indianapolis. “We’ll have a good time, that’s for sure. I don’t need anything but money and friends. I have clothes from my nieces that still have tags on them.”
She and her longtime friends – two ladies and two men – get together to celebrate their birthdays. “And the men always pay,” smiled Dodson. The birthday gal or guy usually picks where they are going, but since this is a such a special occasion, Dodson had no say in the matter.
She and her four deceased siblings – two brothers and sisters – attended IPS Schools 19 and 64 and Crispus Attucks High. She was married twice but didn’t have any children. Her first husband, Samuel Lindsey, died after World War II of heart problems. James Dodson, her second husband, was 95 when he died in 2007.
Mrs. Dodson retired from RCA in 1974 after 30 years of service; James retired from International Harvester.
While it’s common and often overkill to hear someone say, “So-and-so is a young this or that,” Dodson is truly a young 100. She just gave up driving five years ago and bowled a 148 when she was 97.
“I only got one ticket in my life, and that was when I was in my 90s. I don’t think I was speeding on the way to the bowling alley with my husband, but the officer said I was. Maybe I was ... I was talking to James. I loved to bowl; I was in two senior citizens leagues until about three years ago.”
She goes to church and Sunday school every week and wouldn’t miss a monthly union meeting of UAW Local 226 because “there are a lot of men there.”
Dodson is known as a social butterfly among her friends, and her phone rings off the hook. “All you have to say is, ‘Let’s go,’ and she’s ready to roll. It can be anywhere,” said Shute, who visits her almost daily at Spruce Manor Senior Housing and stays for dinner four or five nights a week. “She’s a good cook, and I love her vegetable soup. I like everything; I’m not picky.
“She’s been my second mother; she’s like an angel to the family. If I did something wrong when I was growing up, I had to answer to my mom and Ora. She’s definitely a gift from God.”
The only time Shute has to fend for himself at dinner time is when Dodson is going out to eat. She doesn’t have a favorite food or restaurant, noting that the conversation is what makes a meal.
Besides Shute, Dodson receives frequent visits from two other great-nephews, a great-niece and a niece.
“My doctor says I’m in good health, but some of my relatives worry about me and want to hear the doctor say that, so they’ll tag along to my appointment. I take my medicine and my daily vitamin, and I eat well,” said Dodson, who’s vision and hearing are fine.
Although the centenarian can’t recall the first president she voted for, she said she was happy to have the right to cast a ballot. And that’s something she did last week.
The first car she drove was a Plymouth, but she can’t remember the year. She’s been to Washington, D.C., Detroit, where she witnessed the manufacturing of a car from start to finish. She has no interest in learning about computers because she already has enough stuff in her head. “I just want to keep what I have.”
Dodson has lived at Spruce Manor, 1840 Perkins Ave., for five years. She stayed alone at her house for two years after her husband died. “I like it here. I don’t mess with them, and they don’t mess with me.” She looks forward to bingo and a version of the “Price Is Right,” where residents guess the price of health products. “I don’t watch much television, but I enjoy game shows and some sports. The game shows make you think. I’m not a big fans of the Colts, but I love the Pacers, and the World Series was interesting.”
She has maintained all of her independence at the facility. “I do everything for myself; I cook, clean and do my laundry.”
Paula Ellis, the community’s assistant manager, has a special place in her heart for Dodson. “She’s my all-time favorite. If I could fill this building with Oras, my life would be so much simpler. She can be a part of my family anytime she wants. I would love to adopt her.”
Ellis has a surprise party planned, and since Dodson doesn’t like cake, 40 lemon cupcakes have been baked for the occasion.
“A lot of people say I’m lucky,” said Dodson. “But I don’t think that’s the case. I’m blessed.”