Edythe Kirchmaier: Living passionately for 105 years

Edythe Kirchmaier celebrates her 105th birthday at her favorite charity, Direct Relief International.
Edythe Kirchmaier celebrates her 105th birthday at her favorite charity, Direct Relief International.

Do you want to live for many years but are afraid of the consequences of aging? Edythe Kirchmaier, who just turned 105, shows us that with laughter and a commitment to making a difference, you can get old without feeling old. Edythe has been volunteering at Direct Relief International (DRI) for 40 years.

My photograph of Edythe Kirchmaier and her family made it to Ellen's TV show. I guess I've made it, and can die happily now. :)
The photograph I took of Edythe Kirchmaier and her family made it to Ellen’s TV show. I guess I’ve made it, and can die happily now.

Edythe was interviewed by Ellen Degeneris on Ellen TV. Her birthday wish? To have 105,000 people like the DRI page on Facebook and light a candle on her virtual cake. As I write this the candles on Edythe’s virtual cake have gone from 33,000 to over 37,000. May all this people take a minute to learn more about DRI’s mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by disaster, poverty and civil unrest.

DRI is active in Haiti three years after the deadly earthquake. It’s thanks to them that I learned about the cholera epidemic brought to the island by UN soldiers. Watch the documentary Baseball in the Time of Cholera, if you haven’t yet, and then write to your congressperson.

Walter M. Bortz II, MD, author of Roadmap to 100
Walter M. Bortz II, MD, author of “Roadmap to 100”

Going back to getting old… Walter Bortz, MD and author of “The Roadmap to 100,” spoke last week at Montecito’s Coral Casino to an enthusiastic crowd. Bortz, 81, runs the Boston Marathon every year. He says that one of the secrets of living to 100 is to give more to the world than you take. Before I met Walter and Edythe, I didn’t want to get old. Now I’m inspired to live another 45 years in good health, and trying to make a difference. There are so many things to do still! And yet, if I die today, I’ll be happy for what I got to live.

About Edythe

Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1908, Edythe Kirchmaier has been serving others for more than a century. As a child she was a member of the YWCA girls clubs and very active in her high school Glee Club. Edythe went on to study social work at Ohio State and then the University of Chicago. Edythe worked in Chicago with the Cook County Bureau of Veterans Affairs and then as a supervisor at the Illinois Emergency Relief Agency, where she met her husband, Joe. In the 1930’s they drove across the country and eventually settled in Santa Barbara, where they would raise their daughter and son. Edythe was a Girls Scout troop leader, active in the PTA, as well as in the First Presbyterian church.

Edythe drives herself to DRI every Tuesday, where she leads a team of volunteers. After being touched by a newspaper article asking for help in 1974, Edythe went on to serve 36 months internationally, followed by thousands of volunteer hours at the organization’s headquarters. During Edythe’s time at DRI she has been a part of dozens of historic emergency response efforts including earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, floods in Pakistan, famine in Somalia, Hurricane Katrina, and most recently, Hurricane Sandy.

About Direct Relief International

Since 1948, Direct Relief International has worked to improve the quality of life for people affected by poverty, disaster, and civil unrest at home and around the world. Direct Relief works to support the work of healthcare providers in the USA and in more than 70 countries, equipping them with the medicines, supplies, and equipment so they can care for people in need within their communities. The organization has been among the world’s largest medical suppliers in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, has top charity ratings, including four-star and “top-notch” rating from Charity Navigator, and a 100% fundraising efficiency rating from Forbes magazine.

About Dr. Bortz

Walter M. Bortz II, M.D., is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and a graduate of Williams College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Recognized as one of America’s most distinguished scientific experts on aging and longevity. Dr. Walter Bortz’s research has focused on the importance of physical exercise in the promotion of robust aging.

Watch Baseball in the Time of Cholera


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