Lake Placid resident turns 105

ReKealth “Kay” Egeland and her youngest son Doug are seen here at her birthday party in Lake Placid last month. (Provided photo)

LAKE PLACID — What’s one of the most important things in life? Having a sense of humor. Take it from a 105-year-old.

ReKealth “Kay” Egeland was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 28, 1917. A nice day to have a birthday, according to Egeland.

She spent this year’s big day at Elderwood of Uihlein at Lake Placid, where she’s a resident. She had a birthday cake and three gold balloons that read 1-0-5, and she held hands with her son Doug and her friend Carol.

Egeland is well-loved at Elderwood, and her tiny but mighty voice is often heard returning that love to those who care for her.

ReKealth “Kay” Egeland sits behind her cake at her 105th birthday party last month. (Provided photo)

Kay’s likes

From her room at Elderwood, Egeland has a view of a common area, where other residents mingle and staff come and go on various errands. She likes to see the action from the comfort of her own space. But that doesn’t mean Egeland is unsociable, and she isn’t a wallflower — she just knows what she likes.

“People ask me what I eat and what I do, and I say, ‘Anything I feel like!'” she said.

Egeland has developed quite a list of likes in her 105 years: flowers, kids, the ocean, “mixing it up” and animals, to name a few.

ReKealth “Kay” Egeland smiles in her room at Elderwood of Uihlein at Lake Placid on Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

She grew up on the northern seashore of New Jersey, reading the New York Times over her father’s shoulder. Her father wrote for the Times, and he’d often ask for her thoughts on articles. The house was filled with culture and life — Egeland’s mother had birds, her brother had a rabbit, and the family had cats, among other animals.

“People would probably come into our house and say, ‘Oh my god, a menagerie,'” Egeland said.

Her childhood left her with an affinity for animals.

“You know, I’m not being nasty, but there are animals I like better than some people,” she said. “That’s the truth.”

Elderwood Director of Activities Holly Slate said Egeland likes to stick to the outskirts of group activity there. She enjoys helping staff cook, and she likes listening to music. Though she doesn’t always participate in group activities, Slate said, she likes to come out of her room sometimes and be a part of the social circle. Admiration from a distance.

ReKealth “Kay” Egeland, left, and her friend Carol Pfeifer sit together at Kay’s 105th birthday party last month. (Provided photo)

“She’s very sweet,” Slate said. “It’s hard not to fall in love with her.”

Despite her sweet side, Egeland was “always raising Cain” as a kid, the usual suspect in every sisterly squabble. And 100 years later, she’s still a “handful” — her son even calls Elderwood to ask if she’s behaving. But she’s not a troublemaker, she said.

“I like to have fun and mix things up,” she said. “I don’t like being boring.”

Her life has been anything but that. Egeland met her husband in New Jersey, where he pitched for the Fair Haven Robins and she raised their family of three children. That was her career, she said.

“It was work,” she said. “People don’t think it is, but it is.”

ReKealth “Kay” Egeland (Provided photo)

Egeland said that her favorite age was during her 20s and 30s, when her kids were little. She remembers going to camp as a family up north, swimming and hiking, cooking outside. They had a home life just as vibrant as her’s was growing up, with a menagerie of friends.

“I always had them (my kids) bring kids home, and I had a houseful of kids,” Egeland said. “Had a houseful of broken things, too.”

On motherhood, Egeland says: “Scream loud at them when they’re bad, that’s all.”

She laughed and added, “You’ve got to be patient.”

All of those broken things were worth it. Now Egeland’s youngest son is in his 70s, and her daughter is in her 80s.

ReKealth "Kay" Egeland talks to Holly Slate, Elderwood of Uihlein at Lake Placid's activities director, in her room at Elderwood on Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

“My daughter keeps telling me how terribly old she is,” Egeland laughed.

After all the years

Egeland and her husband moved up north after the kids grew up, first to Vermont in the 1970s before settling in Saranac Lake in the 80s. Moving here was one of her favorite memories, she said.

“And I wouldn’t go back down (to New Jersey) if you paid me,” she added.

After all the years, Egeland hasn’t outlined a lengthy life philosophy — she likes to take life day-by-day, keep things interesting and have a good sense of humor.

“Make the most of each day. Some people have a list of things — ‘Do this …'” she said, checking off an imaginary list on her palm. “Oh god, I’d go crazy.”

Egeland said people should just be who they are — as long as they’re a good person.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today