Laverne Ashlock on her way to her 100th birthday party at Bluewater Grill in Redondo Beach. Photo courtesy of Laverne Ashlock.
Laverne Ashlock, 52 year resident on Redondo Beach, turned 100 years old last month. Her recipe for a long life is simple: stubbornness and face cream.
“I really don’t know why I have been able to live so long,” Ashlock said, sitting in her cozy condo in the Casa de los Amigos senior housing complex. “I suppose it’s because I am so bull-headed.”
Ashlock was born on March 25, 2014 in tiny Sumner, Missouri. She was the third of four children, with an older sister and a younger and older brother. She has survived all three of her siblings, as well as her husband Aden, who died in 1972.
Ashlock’s early life with her husband brought her from Missouri to Chicago, where she sold cosmetics and skin products for the Lady Esther Company. It’s Lady Esther’s “4 Purpose Face Cream” that she credits for her excellent complexion.
“I would take the train out to the suburbs everyday to sell the products,” she said. “One night I was standing on the track and I noticed a group of Lady Esther girls on the other side. One of them finally came up to me and said, ‘If you’re trying to get to home to Chicago, you’re on the wrong side. You’re heading to Milwaukee.’”
Ashlock’s face lights up as she laughs. She said this is helpful young woman turned out to be her very best friend.
“She and her husband and Aden and me did everything together,” said Ashlock. She even had her first alcoholic drink with them.
“I was 22 and had never had a drink,” she said. “I grew up in a small town where they keep a close eye on you. One night Aden and I went out with our new friends in Chicago, and Aden told me to try a Tom Collins. It was so good I had two and the next thing I knew I was half asleep at the table. I gave Aden hell for it the next day.”
Aden and Laverne moved to Redondo Beach in 1962 when Aden took a job at Trans World Airlines.
“I thought I was in heaven,” Ashlock said of moving to California. “I never drove a car but everyday I would walk from our house on Palos Verdes Boulevard to the Redondo pier. I just loved it.”
Sadly, the couple’s life together was cut short when Aden was diagnosed with cancer. He was just 57 when he died.
“Aden was so handsome and outgoing,” she said. “He told me four years before he died that we would travel the world when he retired. But we never got the chance.”
Though Ashlock never had children and never remarried, she has no lack of companionship in her life.
For one, there is Vinny. A young Brazillian man who was the Ashlock’s neighbor on Palos Verdes Blvd.
“Vinny told me one day that he needed a grandmother and I told him I needed a grandson,” Ashlock said. “So we called it a verbal adoption.”
Vinny moved back to Brazil a few years ago but his job with the airlines lets his surrogate grandmother often. He flew out to California from Brazil just to be there for Ashlock’s 100th birthday party at the Blue Water Grille in Redondo.
Also in attendance at the party was Ashlock’s extended family from Colorado. She was very close with Aden’s sisters and, though they had died, their families have kept close ties with Laverne. A group of them flew from Denver to Los Angeles for an overnight trip to celebrate Laverne’s centennial.
Ashlock’s warmth also attracted the attention of Joe, a mailman who used to deliver her mail at the Casa de los Amigos. They became dear friends, and, even after his mail route changed, Joe called on her.
“Every year on my birthday he brings me a big cake,” Ashlock said, beaming. “All the ladies in the building ask how come I have so many handsome young men around me all the time.”
Maybe that’s the third piece in Ashlock’s secret to longevity: stubbornness, face cream and a cohort of attractive young men.