By Sherri Coner
After a morning visit to the beauty shop, Viola Arnold chose to wear lavender for her 104th birthday. A lavender flower in her hair and a sash which read, “Aged To Perfection,” were perfect finishing touches.
Arnold’s life began on the family farm her great-grandparents created, set one-quarter of a mile off Hanna Avenue.
“It is now the Hanna Haunted Acres,” Arnold said with a grin.
As a 1937 graduate of Franklin Central High School, Arnold added that her graduating class consisted of 12 students.
“I knew everybody,” she said of the small community. “Nobody lived out there except farmers.”
Her future husband, Harold Arnold, also lived in the Franklin Township area and attended St. John’s Lutheran Church, like Arnold and her family.
The couple tied the knot when Harold returned home from WWII.
“I was 27 when we married,” Arnold said.
While Harold worked as a civil servant, Arnold raised their children, a daughter, Janet, who died in 2006, and a son, John Arnold of Avon.
“When the children started school, I went to work for an insurance office,” she said. “I was a Dictaphone operator.”
Later in the marriage, Harold was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
A few months before their 45th anniversary, Arnold planned an early celebration.
“I was afraid he wouldn’t remember it. And he died shortly after that,” she said of Harold Arnold’s 1988 passing.
Through the 10 decades of her life, Arnold’s family grew to include four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Granddaughter Julie Lucas of Broad Ripple grew up half a mile away and spent many weekends with her grandparents.
“She used to can lots and lots of vegetables,” Lucas said.
But her favorite memory was the raspberry jelly her grandma made from the “zillions of blackberries my mom and dad picked by the railroad track.”
When Arnold wasn’t enjoying her family, she often worked for the church.
“Her faith is really strong,” John Arnold said of his mother.
After retirement, “couponing” became a new hobby.
“She collected coupons like crazy,” Lucas said. “Then she would buy all kinds of food for the church pantry.”
Widowed more than 30 years ago, her grandmother was a strong, independent woman who drove her car well past her 90th birthday, Lucas said.
What is the secret to living such a long life?
When Arnold thoughtfully paused, Lucas teasingly said, “You eat chocolate every day.”
“I quit eating chocolate when I moved here,” Arnold said of her move a few years ago to Altenheim Family-first Senior Living, located on Hanna Avenue, five miles from where she grew up.
“Oh you did not,” Lucas said with a laugh. “Chocolate. That’s the key.”
While songs by country music greats like Ronnie Milsap and Charlie Rich played in the background, Bobbie Vann, an Altenheim activity director, slowly pushed Arnold’s wheelchair toward a huge crowd of well-wishers. Her destination was a table covered with a purple tablecloth, decorated with balloons and fresh flowers.
Smiling, Arnold presented a parade wave, sparking more than a few audience smiles.
“She has always been a go-getter,” Vann said. “Anything you ask Viola to do, she’s willing to go for it.”