Happy Birthday to 100-year-old Josephine Hamilton Houck

Becoming a centenarian is a big deal…

So we want to wish an amazing 100th to Josephine (Jo) Hamilton Houck, whose birthday wish was to come back to where it all began for her, here in Fayetteville.

“There’s been a lot of change in 44 years,” said Jo.

Her secret to longevity and living to 100 — being religious at one point in her life, and not smoking. Back when she belonged to the Women’s Auxiliary of the Stark County Medical Society, where she said they smoked at the dinner table.

“Said we of all people, physicians wives should not smoke. It’s so detrimental,” Jo said. “And so I was always preaching, don’t smoke. I never liked to sunbathe. Burn; it peels. What’s pretty about that?”

The 100-year-old married Charles Houck of Greenbrier County; they had six children. She attended West Virginia University studying home economics, and later trained as a lab technician, a field she enjoyed.

“I wanted to finish my education. And so then we went to Richmond, Virginia Medical College,” said Jo.

Being back in town — the centenarian stopped for a visit at the Gaines Estate and says she has fond memories of Fayetteville.

“I was very proud of the fact that it was the county seat. And we had the courthouse and and I thought it was so pretty,” Jo said. “And then the jail was there. And I played tennis over at the educational building; I don’t know if it’s still there or not.”

Daughter Jayn Crail says her mom surprises her all the time…

“Mother still lives alone over in Bel Air, Florida,” Crail said. “We keep begging her to come and live close to us or live with us. And she says, ‘I’m on my own; I’m independent.'”

Then there was her time as a pilot. It all started when her husband connected with a young doctor who had a plane and the doc thought if he got Charles interested in flying they could buy a plane together and that’s what they did. The first trip Jo and Charles took there was a pressure issue and that prompted her to take lessons.

“I said, if I’m gonna get scared it’s got to be something real,” said Jo.

In many ways, the 100-year-old was ahead of her time. She got her pilot’s license (and was dubbed ‘Akron Canton Special’).

“I went to Cleveland all the time,” the centenarian said. “And my children, I’d take them and I got to know the fellows in the tower and they put the red carpet down for me like they do for the president.”

One day there was a bad storm as they flew to visit her brother, Pat Hamilton.

“And I said, why don’t we just land on the road? I didn’t think anybody’d care; it wasn’t opened,” said Jo. “And so that’s what we did. And as far as I knew, there was nobody around. And once we landed, it was like all these people came out of the mountains.”

The centenarian has a lot of history in southern West Virginia. She’s so proud of her mother and father and state senator brother. As for turning 100…

“Well, I certainly never expected to. I’ve always taken care of myself,” Jo said.

In 2023 Jayn says her mom threw a big party for herself and told their cousin that the following year she was going to have a party in Fayetteville, WV, where she was born.

“We tried for a year to talk her out of it ’cause we said, ‘mother, you’re 100, we don’t know how hard it’ll be to get you to West Virginia,'” says Crail. “And she said she wanted to go home.”

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