CHICO — Centenarian Luetta Henderson says the secret to life is to “mind your business, be polite and look good.”
Henderson lives at Arbor Post Acute nursing home in Chico. She was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and spent most of her life living in New York moving there at the age of seven. She attended public elementary, junior high and high schools in New York and went on to junior college and earned an AA degree.
Henderson worked for the garment district in New York City as a secretary to one of the shop owners when she was 21. From there, she went on to work for Child Protective Services as a secretary and then an officer for 30 years and retired from CPS. She visited people’s houses in Harlem and checked on children’s welfare.
Henderson met her first husband, Rudy Giscombe, at church and married him June 11, 1942 in New York City when she was 21 years old. They were married for 30 years and had a son together, also named Rudy, who was born in 1946. Rudy Giscombe Jr. became a musician and photographer and and worked as a photographer for the Chico News and Review. He died from prostate cancer in 2011.
Henderson was remarried to Joe Henderson Nov. 21, 1976 and was married to him for five to 10 years.
She then moved to New Jersey for five to six years, then to Poughkeepsie in upstate New York where she lived in a senior apartment complex. Henderson remained active until about the age of 90. She went for long walks and did her own grocery shopping. Henderson still likes to walk and hoofs it around the the nursing home with her walker.
Henderson’s grandson, Sunny Giscombe, decided to move her to Chico 10 years ago when she started developing dementia symptoms so she could be closer to her family. Sunny Giscombe is married and has two children, ages three and five. He said his kids look like their great-grandmother. Henderson lived with other family for almost a year, then with Sunny Giscombe and his family for three months, which turned into a difficult situation due to her mental state. She moved into Arbor Post Acute a few years ago. Sunny Giscombe’s father, Rudy, met his mother and moved to Chico where he lived for a long time. His father never wanted to live in New York.
Henderson has a strong faith and attended a Baptist church in New York City. She also attended a Baptist church in Chico for a long time. The pastor in Chico would come pick her up to take her to church.
One of Henderson’s hobbies was singing in the church choir. She wasn’t even asked if she could sing, just was volunteered to be a member and was plunked down in the choir. She also enjoys reading mysteries and romance novels. She enjoyed cooking, especially her famous potato salad, and loved watching her “story,” soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” She also loves theater and saw many plays in New York. She snuck off to the Apollo Theater when she was young to watch a show.
Henderson liked to travel and went on a cruise to Florida and the Caribbean and has been to Alaska two to three times.
Henderson calls turning 100 as turning 50 “for the second time.” She believes strongly in exercise and laughing to keep healthy.
Henderson celebrated her 100th birthday Wednesday with a big bash at Arbor Post Acute with family and staff.