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Seniors With Lively Lives Chronicled

October 14, 1989|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Capistrano Beach author Francis Raymond Line calls them "Super Seniors."

There's Ila McAfee Turner of Taos, N.M., a 91-year-old artist just back from a sketching trip in Yucatan.

There's 86-year-old Ernest Brown of San Clemente, the oldest member of his church choir.

And there's Hulda Crooks of Loma Linda, still climbing mountains at 93.

McAfee, Brown and Crooks are among 100 "remarkable men and women" whose lives are featured in Line's "Super Seniors: Their Stories and Secrets" (Wide Horizons Press, $8.95).

Line, himself an octogenarian, says the book provides glimpses into the lives of remarkable older citizens who have made--and continue to make--valuable contributions to society. Its focus is on the positive attributes of aging and "living as long as you live."

As credited on the cover, the book was written with the assistance of Helen E. Line, 82--Line's wife of 61 years.

Line says they got the idea for "Super Seniors" when "we just began to realize we've had so many wonderful friends over the years. In a way, we wanted to share them with the public."

Among the 18 Orange County residents included in the 175-page paperback book are Mabel Hutchinson, an 86-year-old Capistrano Beach artist; Marla Gitterman, a 77-year-old Ms. Senior America for California in 1987 and vice president of the Laguna Niguel Seniors, and 86-year-old Lillian Bronson of Laguna Niguel, a former Hollywood actress who served as the model for Los Angeles' first freeway mural, known as "The Old Woman of the Freeway."

As Line defines it in his introduction, "this book creates word pictures of vigorous, much-alive, fully matured individuals whose outlook on life is 'youthful' and whose 'principal source of support' is not so much a 'pension' as a 'penchant'--a penchant for real living, looking ahead, savoring adventures, whether physical, intellectual, artistic or spiritual."

"In general," Line said, "it was just the friends we had known who had lived right to the hilt in a creative way and always looked forward and had a youthful approach to life."

Here's Hulda Crooks, who climbed Japan's 12,388-foot Mt. Fuji when she was 91, on her philosophy for a healthy life:

"Begin to count the happy moments of each day. Try to be grateful for whatever good comes to you, be it seemingly ever so little. Talk of the things that meet your needs and give you joy. Linger over each 'find' with thankful heart. This will grow into a most rewarding habit."

Line said he felt a sense of urgency to complete the book and, indeed, four of the Super Seniors died before it went to press. "But," he said, "those that died were active right up until the time of their death."

At 85, Line himself is a "Super Senior" in good standing.

Fourteen years ago--after a 37-year career of making travel-adventure and educational documentaries--the couple, as Line says, "put our cameras on the shelves and started writing books."

"Super Seniors" is Line's seventh book.

One of the first was a book on St. Francis of Assisi, the subject of one of their educational documentary films. Another, "Adventure Unlimited," is the story of the couple's film-making days traveling all over the world. And "Foot By Foot Through the USA," which Line co-wrote with his brother, Winfield H. Line, chronicles the brothers' yearlong hike through every state of the union after high school graduation in 1922. Line said they worked their way across the country "and had enough left over to pay our tuition for college."

Francis and Helen Line still have adventure in their souls.

For the past dozen years they have hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on their wedding anniversary on May 1.

"This year my daughter (Adrienne Knute) and I hiked down, but my wife thought it might be too much of a hike," Line said. However, the couple did hike together along the Rim trail. "We plan to go there every May 1, I suppose, as long as we live," Line said.

The couple's 58-year love affair with the Grand Canyon--they made their first visit in 1931--naturally led to another book, "Grand Canyon Love Story," which they co-authored five years ago.

Line already has an idea for his eighth book.

"Well," he said with a laugh, "I swore I wasn't going to do another one, but the other night I got a great idea. The thing of it is we got to thinking about a lot of interesting episodes that weren't in any of our books."

The new one will deal with the time, in 1959, when the Lines became stranded on one of the Greek islands. Line hasn't actually started writing it yet: He said there are so many other things he should be doing.

"But I wake up in the night and make notes on it," he said, chuckling: "I guess I love to write books."

"Super Seniors" may be ordered from Wide Horizons Press, 13 Meadowsweet, Irvine, Calif. 92715.

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