Paul Farrow had an incredulous look on his face.
He had taken a break Sunday from a game of dominos to answer a question as to what prompted him more than three quarters of a century ago to make the fateful decision to ask Norma Hardage if he could walk her home from church.
Farrow looked toward a framed portrait on his living room wall as a smile broke out across his face.
“Who wouldn’t?” he said recalling the day he saw Norma sitting in church. “She was gorgeous. She was beautiful.”
Farrow on Sunday was beating his son Sam at dominos — something he does quite frequently — just a day after his family helped him celebrate his 100th birthday with a gathering in his front yard. Missing was the love of his life Norma who passed away in 2009 just shy of their 70th wedding anniversary. Present were many of their family members. That included daughter Paula Miller and son Sam (daughter Judy Ballance was unable to attend) as well as many of their eight grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and 12 great-great-grandchildren. A 13th great-great-grandchild is expected in November.
Farrow doesn’t miss a beat when he’s asked what advice he’d offer others if given the opportunity.
“The first thing you need to know is there is a Creator,” Farrow said. “We are all under the Creator’s care.”
Farrow’s faith has guided him through life.
The son of Curtis Gibson “Gip” Farrow and Emmaline “Emma” (Hartley) Farrow was born June 5, 1920 in Duke in Jackson County in Oklahoma. The next to the youngest of 13 children — his siblings have all passed away — Farrow was raised in Oklahoma while it was hammered concurrently by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
A job as a mechanic with the magnesium plant that once stood on Louise Avenue just west of the Manteca Unified School District complex is today on land where Amazon Prime and Medline are now located brought him to Manteca in June of 1951.
Back then there was one “swinging” traffic light — suspended by wires across the intersection of Highway 99 and Highway 120 that are known today as Main Street and Yosemite Avenue — in Manteca. There were also 81,000 less people as Manteca had a population of 3,804 people back in 1951.
Manteca’s growth hasn’t surprised him as much as the direction it has gone.
“I always thought it would grow to the east,” Farrow said, noting how areas to the south and west have sustained major floods twice in the 69 years he has lived here.
Farrow also worked a year for a Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Stockton before starting his own business.
Farrow’s Bicycles & Small Engines operated for years on North Main Street in the building that now houses the Hong Kong Restaurant.
He’s been a member of First Baptist Church (now The Way Church) since 1953. He’s served as a deacon, Sunday school superintendent, and various committees. He was a member of the Manteca Noon Kiwanis.
An avid fisherman, Farrow has angled for trout in mountain streams and local rivers. Farrow and his wife enjoyed vacationing in their motorhome.
He still enjoys woodworking making it a point to tackle projects in his workshop almost on a daily basis. His creations over the years have ranged from clocks and table lamps to wood carvings.
On Friday, Farrow was notified by the DMV his driver’s license has been extended for three months due to the pandemic. He hasn’t decided yet if he will take the drivers’ test needed to renew his license.
Longevity isn’t unusual in his family. His father lived to the age of 99 years and 5 months having passed away in 1969. His maternal Great Grandfather Jesse Hartley lived to 105 years. And his Maternal Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Abigail Beckett, lived to 103 years and six months. She was employed by Peter Jefferson, father of President Thomas Jefferson.
Farrow’s Maternal Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Mathaeus Nading was a Hessian conscripted by King George to fight against Colonial America. When released as a POW after the war ended, he chose to stay in the freshly minted United States of America. He was listed a deserter in British records.
Saturday’s celebration included a drive by of the Franklin Syndicate Antique Car Club. The Tune Struck barbershop quartet also performed.
Farrow noted in order to live life to its fullest you have to be willing to take challenges head on.
“Getting old isn’t for sissies,” Farrow quipped.
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