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Oldest living Union alum turns 104

JACKSON, Tenn.July 12, 2002 – When Mrs. Kathryn Mildred Frye Thurman fondly remembers her days at Union, she can recall all of the students sitting on the steps of the main building on the university’s old campus in downtown Jackson, singing, as the early evening shadows fell.

On May 8 of this year, Mrs. Thurman celebrated her 104th birthday, making her – to the administration and alumni offices’ knowledge – the oldest living Union alum.

Mrs. Katherine Mildred Frye Thurman, a 1918 Union graduate, recently celebrated her 104th birthday. Union honored her important day by sending her a special package of Union gifts - complete with this year's Homecoming shirt.

Mrs. Katherine Mildred Frye Thurman, a 1918 Union graduate, recently celebrated her 104th birthday. Union honored her important day by sending her a special package of Union gifts - complete with this year's Homecoming shirt.

A music graduate, Mrs. Thurman loves music and loved teaching it. Union’s 1918 “Lest We Forget” yearbook lists her as a graduate under Mrs. A.W. Prince (her sister) in 1912. She went on to study with Ottman Wall in St. Louis, Mo., returning to teach at Union in 1916. In 1923 she moved to California with her husband, where she taught piano for more than 60 years.

Crediting her long life to “my belief in God and honest and righteous living,” Mrs. Thurman still remains very active in her Sunnydale, Calif., home at Sun City Gardens, an unassisted senior living center, her daughter Kaye Jamison points out.

“She still lives in her own apartment and gets up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to make it to breakfast at 7 a.m. in the main dining room,” Jamison explains. Later each morning, she goes to her tai chi exercise class which she ‘highly recommends to all seniors who wish to keep up their body strength.’”

After running errands, eating lunch and taking a nap, Mrs. Thurman enjoys watching television in the afternoon, “especially the golf matches. She loves golf!” says her daughter, laughing.

On Sundays, Mrs. Thurman attends her church using the van provided by her residence. In the evening, she plays for the “Ole Tyme” hymn sing they have at the Gardens. Though she uses a walker and has trouble hearing, her health remains better than average for her age group. Her daughter Kaye and her other daughter Fran visit her twice each week and help her with banking, shopping or running errands for her. Sometimes they also enjoy cribbage.

And Mrs. Thurman’s advice for living?

“Be good to your fellow men and always see the cup half full instead of half empty!”


Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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