Local News

Tuesday, Feb 04 2014 08:02 PM

Centenarian celebrates life and longevity

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Marian Bookout when she was a teenager in high school.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Turning 100 on Feb. 6 is Marian Bookout.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Marian Bookout will be celebrating her 100th birthday on Feb. 6. Daughters Barbara Sutliff, left, and Margaret Siemens stand by her side. Son Jerry Sutliff was at a doctor appointment.

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

By the time someone reaches a 100th birthday, facts can get blurred and legend can become history.

But some truths about Marian Bookout are irrefutable. She:

Attended high school with former President Richard M. Nixon;

Outlived three husbands;

Earned an associate's degree from Bakersfield College at age 83, even though she had to take elementary algebra five times;

Only eats vanilla ice cream; and

Has never smoked or tasted alcohol.

OK, that last truth is blurred with a bit of legend. When Bookout was born on Feb. 6, 1914 along with a twin sister, she only weighed 3 pounds, and doctors despaired for her life.

Her daddy gave her a teaspoon of moonshine, and after placing her in a small box put her in a heated oven.

One hundred years later minus one day, Bookout is wiry spry, reads mysteries, biographies and romance novels, enjoys going out to eat and plays two hours of cutthroat pinochle every Tuesday morning even if she is not 100 percent sure why local luminaries like Mayor Harvey L. Hall and BC President Sonya Christian are coming to her birthday party on Saturday.

No matter. The mayor plans to commemorate Saturday as "Marian Bookout Day" in Bakersfield. Christian plans to give her a copy of the college's centennial book and a certificate of recognition.

Bookout always wanted to be a librarian, and beginning in 1957, her first year at BC, she took classes in filing, typing and library technical processes.

Her subsequent times at the college -- 1972, 1976, 1982, 1992, and finally, 1997 -- resulted in her May 5, 1997 graduation, with a final grade point average of 2.73.

For 10 years during her 60s and 70s, she volunteered as a library aide at Emerson Junior High School, now Emerson Middle School. She was so well liked that an "Outstanding Reader" award was given to a deserving student in her name for many years.

When she and her twin sister Jeanne Triplett were born, the local paper allegedly wrote that "twin Tripletts" were born and people came from miles around to look at the family's six babies.

Bookout attended Fullerton Union High School with Nixon -- he was a class ahead -- married when she was 22 and then lived in Signal Hill, Long Beach and San Juan Capistrano before finally settling in Bakersfield.

Both her parents died young, and her first husband Maryl Sutliff died in his 50s after more than 30 years of marriage.

But her twin sister lived past 90 and a younger sister in Alabama is 91.

Her three children -- Jerry Sutliff, Barbara Sutliff and Margaret Siemens, all of Bakersfield -- are in their 70s.

"She was always there for me no matter what," Siemens said. "If I ever needed her all I had to do was ask."

Bookout has six grandchildren, one great-grandchild and one great-great-grandchild. Five generations of the family will be at her birthday party.

It could be the stuff of legend.

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