Westminster centenarian shares observations from her century-long life: Be nice to people

For a whole century, one local woman has gathered a series of tales and a lifetime of memories.

On Friday, Bernice Armetta of Westminster turned 100 years old and celebrated one century on this planet with multiple ceremonies.


At least two local senior living facilities, including one where she currently resides, held celebrations for Armetta — but she isn’t really one for the spotlight.

“The last week or two I wish I hadn’t had it — all this attention,” she said. “Just gets on my nerves. I like my own pace, but everybody is nice to you and I try to be nice to everybody else.”


In honor of her birthday, Armetta will also have a separate private get-together for close friends and family.

Armetta was born in South Dakota but grew up in Wyoming, along with five other siblings.

“We grew up with six,” she said. “It wasn’t so bad, it wasn’t good, like it is today money-wise. We made out OK, my dad was kind to us. He expected obedience but he was good to us. He liked to sing and we liked to sing; my mom couldn’t sing.”

While growing up in Wyoming, she met her husband as he was stationed there during World War II. She, meanwhile, served as a nurse.

As a former nurse, Armetta said she thinks that a big problem today is drug addiction.

“The drugs — that’s the one thing that worries me, more than anything, is the drug addiction. It comes so easily because doctors prescribe it,” she said. “Too many drugs are prescribed today.”

She found her way to Maryland after marrying her husband in 1945 and moving to Baltimore with him because he was from there and all of his family was there.

“I took the leap,” Armetta said. “Now, my mom must have thought I was crazy, but she didn’t say so.”

After initially living in Baltimore, Armetta moved to Carroll County after her children got older. When her son was 9 years old, she started working at a bakery in Carroll County for about 15 years before retiring.

Armetta said her son has been one of her life’s greatest rewards, and he has helped her through some trials of aging.

“This was a test period, let me tell you. He’s taken care of me for two years now,” she said. "The thing of it is, I just cherish my friends. It just makes me teary-eyed to think that I’ve kept them so long, I buried so many.”

Armetta said she outlived her first child, Suzanne, who died in 1997 and was a talented artist.


Like her daughter, Armetta also had a creative outlet — knitting.

“I just had to keep busy, I don’t know that it’s nervous energy,” Armetta said. “I just hate people sitting around, doing nothing.”

Armetta used to give away blankets at local fairs before she could no longer knit.

Armetta stayed at South Carroll Senior and Community Center for 40 years, since she was 60 years old. Her husband died in 2011, after 66 years of marriage.

There are two things she’s hated most about getting old, Armetta said: her aging skin and loss of her memory.

“You search for words and you can’t think,” she said. “And all this stuff, I hate all these moles and warts and stuff. My doctor said if anybody lives to be as old as you are, they’re going to have warts and bumps too. He isn’t real modest about his speech.”

Even with age, Armetta does her best to stay active. According to her, the secret to longevity is daily exercise.

“Exercise, exercise, exercise, capital letters,” Armetta said. “When I joined on at South Carroll, there was all kinds of exercise — it was free time at that time — I liked line dance and exercise; whatever kept you moving. I worked hard all my life, I sold everything I made. I made everything I wore for years.”

One big difference Armetta has noticed compared to when she was in her 20s to now is a decline in marriages.

“Well, the difference is people got married then,” she said. “That’s the big difference. I can’t tell you. I don’t know whether it’s so bad not getting married, I don’t know.”

A philosophy that Armetta lives by, at 100 years old, is to simply be nice to people.

“As long as people are nice to me, I don’t care what they like, I really don’t,” she said. “Sometimes, I might not approve, but if they’re nice to me, I would help them a a bit at a time.”

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