Street Talk: Virginia City woman doesn't let age slow her down

When Cora Whitten celebrates her 89th birthday on the last day of this month, she'll still have something many her age have long since lost.

"I've still got my own teeth," said Cora proudly and with a big smile on her face. "And I still drive a car, work and I live alone and can still take care of myself."

Well, not completely alone as Cora has her pet dog "Tweetie" who is a 7-year old Chihuahua.

"She's my dog but I call her 'Baby' all the time," said Cora happily as Tweetie jumped in her lap. "I also run and operate the Storey County Animal Shelter on my property. We only take dogs from Storey County. I have seven I take care of now. I also board dogs here."

That's Cora's job and she's glad she's got it!

"It keeps me busy," she continued. "It's been a lifesaver for me. It gives me something to do when I get up in the morning. I know my dogs are waiting for me ... I've operated the shelter for 14 years."

Cora was born in Hale, Mich.

"It's a little bitty town of about 200 people," she said. "It used to be a lumber town. Probably still is. I was born at home. The doctor came in his horse and buggy and delivered me."

Cora had three siblings but they are "all gone now" and so are her mom and dad.

"My dad George was a veterinarian and he died at 55 from heart problems," said Cora. "My mom Myrtle had four children and was 68 when she passed away."

Cora was married twice - 18 years to Leroy and 38 years to Clarence - but both husbands have passed away. She had two daughters (Both with Leroy) but only Esther is still alive.

"My youngest daughter Lou Allison died in 1976 from health problems," said Cora rather sadly. "She was only 45 years old. My daughter Esther is 69 and lives in Oregon. I have two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren."

We were visiting in Cora's home, one of the oldest in Virginia City.

"This house was built in 1875," said Cora. "It's a sturdy old house. Lou Allison lived here. This is her house I now live in. I like living here and living in this town."

Cora had lived for many years in Montana before coming to Nevada for good.

"I moved to Virginia City in 1977 and this is the only place I ever lived in Nevada," she noted cheerfully. "I do go to Oregon to visit my daughter. Not every year but I did go last winter and I went a couple of years before that."


Cora says she has no plans to retire anytime soon.

"I'll work as long as I'm able to," she said. "I'm in good health. I have aches and pains but nothing serious. I have a little arthritis but, all things considered, I'm in good shape."

Good enough to drive herself around with no problems.

"I still drive my '73 Maverick and I have a 1981 Eagle four-wheel drive for the winter," she said. "I'm very independent. I've always been and don't know how to live any other way. I've always lived in the country. I'm not a city girl ... I'm happy and healthy and live a neat life."


When I asked Cora what's fun for her and if she's a "television person" she just shook her head "no" at that.

"I'm not a TV watcher and don't watch much TV," said Cora. "I like to read and I like to crochet. I go to the Storey County Senior Center for lunch every day and visit with everybody there. I know them all. But really, I read more than anything else. I have my favorite magazines and I read the Nevada Appeal every day.

"All that and my trips to Oregon are my fun. I don't drink or smoke or gamble either. I drink my tea and I'm very happy with my life."

Cora gave me a tour of the animal shelter before I left and I will add that she's as active a senior citizen as I've ever met ... In fact, we made a date to do another interview when Cora turns 100 years old.

"I may not be taking care of dogs then but I'll be around," she laughed as I departed. "See you then."


It was due to Virginia City's Chic DiFrancia that I learned about Cora.

Chic, who many of you will recall was a Street Talk visitor last year when he found the daughter he never knew he had, told me about Cora a couple of months ago and he set everything up and personally escorted me over to meet her.

Tonight on our Street Talk TV Show on CAT-10 Chic will narrate a tour of Virginia City for us. We'll see everything from parades, camel races, the Cinco De Mayo Chili cookoff and lots more, plus we'll meet with residents and business owners in Virginia City as well as get a behind-the-scenes look at the town.

It's a fun-filled hour that begins at 6 p.m. The show repeats Monday at 8 a.m.

ALAN ROGERS is a Nevada Appeal columnist. His message phone is 887-2430, ext. 402.


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