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Myrtle Almas reflects on her first 100 years of life

By Staff | Jun 14, 2011

Pictured with some of her favorite flowers in 2010, longtime island resident Myrtle Almas is preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday on Friday.

The fact that Myrtle Almas has spent half of her life living on Sanibel isn’t the most impressive detail on the longtime islander’s impressive resume of accomplishments.

But the fact that she is about to turn 100 is.

A stillborn baby brought back to life by the family doctor on June 17, 1911, Myrtle grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of 4, she was struck in the head by a horseshoe, which left her hearing impaired. However, neither incident kept her from becoming a savvy businesswoman, a skilled seamstress or a masterful gardener, who to this day still smiles when she talks about growing flowers, vegetables and assorted foliage.

“Gardening is very peaceful,” Almas said. “I love flowers, and I love having flowers around me. Even a weed is like a flower to me. They’re all so beautiful.”

At age 10, Myrtle secured her first paying job: taking care of her younger sister in a family with seven children for a nickel. They had a horse named Nellie and used a buggy for transportation. Before 1920, their family was one of the first on their street to have a telephone.

As a youngster, she enjoyed tap-dancing and doing “The Charleston,” along with whistling the popular tunes of the day. Myrtle also recalls ice skating on frozen ponds nearby her childhood home, which for a person who has lived on Sanibel for more than 50 years is a cherished memory of days gone by.

“She’s been a wonderful mother,” said Margery Almas, one of Myrtle’s two daughters. “She taught me how to sew without actually teaching me. I used to sit and watch her, and then one day, I knew how to do it myself!”

According to Margery, vegetables and flowers from her mother’s garden were always on the tables. “Mama could even grow bougainvillea trees in Northern Ohio. It was her green thumb,” she added.

A recreational bowler, Myrtle could make a “7-10 split” back in her prime. She was also a Girl Scout Troop Leader. At parties, her famous Lemon Cake Pie was a sensation that is still craved by her family.

The Almas’ have lived on Sanibel since the late 1950’s, and were joined by some family members in the ’70s. Myrtle and her husband, Carl, owned and managed their Beachcomber Resort Motel for more than 20 years. During that time and in the years since, some of their guests would write to Myrtle to share their favorite memories of staying on Sanibel or simply just to say hello.

“I met a lot of beautiful people there,” said Myrtle. “I still get cards and letters from some of them, which I love.”

Among the former Beachcomber guests who kept in touch were actor McLean Stevenson, who spent his honeymoon at the resort, and hockey legend Phil Esposito.

Married three times, Myrtle’s family grew over the decades. She now boasts four grandchildren, six great-grandchildren “and 11 great-great-grand dogs, cats and one horse.”

Asked what she attributes her longevity to, Myrtle explained that much of it can be credited to working hard and always treating people with kindness and respect.

“There’s no secret to long life,” she added. “I never gave a thought to living 100 years. Birthdays come and go, but the Lord has been very good to me.”