Homestead resident and former WWII Army nurse celebrates 100th birthday

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Just days after her one hundredth birthday, Homestead Assisted Living resident Opal Grapes says that she “hasn’t missed much” in a lifetime that has taken her across state lines, overseas and right in the middle of World War II.


Ms. Opal turned 100 years old on July 19, but to her, it was like any other day.


“I’ve never turned 100 before, but I’m still hanging around. I’ve had a fantastic life,” Ms. Opal said. “I’m just 100, that’s it. I’m still alive, and I still have a pretty good mind. I’ve seen and done many things in my life.”


A self-proclaimed “mountain girl,” Ms. Opal’s fulfilled life began in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in a farming community. She says she attended a Methodist school before earning a degree in nursing education from the University of Virginia. 


Ms. Opal then went on to serve as an Army nurse in England during WWII.


“I’m a World War II veteran. I’ll never forget World War II. I was right in the middle of it. I was not at Pearl Harbor, but I saw Pearl Harbor happen,” Ms. Opal said.


While serving as a nurse in a Veterans Affairs hospital in Wyoming, Ms. Opal treated a patient who wound up in a bad automobile accident from icy road conditions. 


That patient, Robert Grapes, would become her husband. Together, they have two daughters, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.


“I really was not interested in anything except working, but I met my husband, and that was it. He was a fantastic person. He was a wonderful, wonderful person. We had a wonderful life together,” Ms. Opal said. “I called him Bob. He was always Robert, so this little southern girl came along and called him Bob…Then he became Bob to everybody.”


The couple ultimately. found their way to Louisiana when Bob got a job with Chevron.


Ms. Opal said that the Homestead is her home now, and she loves her life there. 


“I’m being well taken care of, and I believe they like me,” Ms. Opal says. “I like them, too.”


She participates in every activity the Homestead offers, but some her favorite things to do include coloring and reading, specifically mystery novels since she “likes a good mystery.”


Above all, though, she makes it a point to stay active and not sit around all day. She said she loves her daily walks around the Homestead.


After a lifetime of countless experiences, Ms. Opal has advice for younger generations about how to live a fulfilled life.


“Keep active. Try new things. Don’t just sit around and moan about things,” Ms. Opal said. “And get a good education.”