Chalk it up to another life experience in Louise Mahler's amazing life.
When the Northridge earthquake rocked the region last January, many in the Westside were hit hard. And one of them was Mahler. A longtime resident of the Charmont apartments in Santa Monica, she lost her home, most of her belongings and almost her life.
But her strength in surviving the natural disaster and its aftereffects continues to amaze her friends and relatives.
Mahler is 107 years old.
"I thought my apartment was going to fall in on me," Mahler said about the earthquake. "But my son came in and helped me out of the building. Then our car stopped dead in the street," she said.
"We lost everything. It was terrible."
Mahler got help from the St. Joseph Center, a social service agency in West Los Angeles that found her temporary housing. The center, through an alliance with the Los Angeles City Housing Authority, helped find homes for more than 2,000 low-income Westside families displaced by the quake.
Mahler is one client the center's staff members all remember.
"She's a very extraordinary woman," said Rhonda Meister, the center's executive director. "She's a testament to the spirit of life in all of us."
On a recent afternoon, a group of St. Joseph volunteers gathered around Mahler, born Sept. 18, 1887, for a birthday celebration that was almost forgotten during last year's events.
Mahler, a talkative woman who wears no glasses, regaled the group with stories of U.S. President William Howard Taft, using kerosene lamps before electricity, and eloping with her first husband--he was on leave from shipping out to fight in the Spanish-American War.
She also broached the secrets of her longevity--a life that has allowed her to see 10 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, ages 24 and 22.
"A good, clean life helps, and a drink once in awhile," she said.
BILLBOARD BUSHWHACK: The air in Los Angeles may be smoggy, but apparently it's clear enough for city officials to see they're being had in a recent advertising campaign.
Los Angeles council members recently called for a meeting with officials from El Segundo to discuss two billboards and 40 posters placed around the Southland, including one proclaiming: "From El Segundo you have a perfectly clear view of the smog that hangs over L.A."
The billboards are designed to attract businesses to El Segundo, a city hit hard by cutbacks in the aerospace industry. But Los Angeles officials fear they'll drive businesses away from the greater L.A. area.
"Competition is great, but we believe efforts to denigrate one city (are) counterproductive to our region," says Howard Gantman, a spokesman for Councilwoman Rita Walters.
El Segundo officials counter the billboards are in good fun--and aren't meant to hurt Los Angeles.
So far, their results have been mixed.
City officials say they have received an increase in phone calls from business leaders considering locating in El Segundo. But they have yet to hear from anyone in Los Angeles who wants to discuss the ad campaign.