The Life of Californian Centenarian Rose Becerra

By Kristina Munoz (her loving great niece)


*Today’s post is about Aunt Rose, a woman who is truly a treasure! This was written by one of my favorite people in the whole world who happens to be a successful executive in the music business. This story is inspiring! Enjoy!

Aunt Rose at 21!

The eternally young Rose Becerra (a/k/a “Nina Rose” to my mom or my “Great Aunt Rose to me) shared some of her childhood memories with me as she often does when I spend time with her.  I am moved and always amazed and totally engaged as she has shared her life over the years.  I write this from memory to give a snapshot of this incredible, independent renaissance woman, she is 105 years old now and still living life and is a force of nature, all 4 feet 5 inches of her 😊.

My “Great” Aunt Rose (my Mom’s Aunt) was born in Durango, Mexico and moved to El Paso, Texas with her mother when she was four years old, that’s 101 years ago, which would take us back to the year 1920. Soon after they moved from Texas to Oregon to join her father who was working on the railroads there.  She recalls that they were far away from any towns, and that it was so remote that her mother, who was a teacher, taught her at home.  Back then they had to use an outhouse and a well for access to water due to the remote location of their home.  Her father could not read or write, and her mother had a college education which I imagine was not so common back in the 20’s for women, let alone Hispanic women.  When Aunt Rose was eight years old her family moved to Sacramento, California and she was placed in kindergarten with her younger brother. Not remembering how long it took, she recalls eventually that she was promoted into classes with children of her own age.  When she was in high school, she was the only student of Latino heritage, but she denies ever feeling any prejudices toward her from that time. 

Aunt Rose 34 and her daughters Erma and Olga

After high school she obtained her cosmetology license and began work as a hairdresser.  In 1946, she married at the age of 26 and moved to Los Angeles and has always loved “big city living” and can’t imagine living anywhere else!  (Go Dodgers!) Her new husband (back then) didn’t have much money and things were sometimes pretty tough but that never deterred her from enjoying life and being in gratitude for what she had and also shared with family & friends.  She recalls her first experiences of feeling like she was a minority occurred after she moved to Los Angeles.  She never told me the exact reasons why.

As time went on, she had three beautiful and adoring children and continued working at beauty salons where she had a loyal clientele.  Meanwhile, unfortunately, she realized her husband had “an eye for the ladies” and so she divorced him.  Aunt Rose had a low tolerance for deceit, disrespect and for not honoring the marriage vows, she is an honest and direct person.  Aunt Rose was single for a long while and traveled all over the world, when I say all over the world, I mean literally to countries I could never imagine going to. I estimate she has been to over 100 countries.  She was a fiercely independent and active woman always and she loves to be with people, eat and laugh along with being a world traveler.  Later on in she did have a live-in boyfriend eventually and that lasted for about 15 years, they remained in contact and he was good to the family.

Life is very different now then when Aunt Rose was a young person because of all the modern conveniences. Aunt Rose told me about her family having an ice box – which was just that, a box with ice inside that kept things cold.  She also remembers washing clothes by hand and hanging them to dry.   As for lighting, oil lamps were used back in the day of her youth and cites that they were really “a pain” she explains with a laugh at recalling these memories!

Aunt Rose was born 2 years after the end of World War 1 in 1918, and has lived through World War 2, Vietnam War, the devastating 9/11 terrorist attack on US soil, but the most significant event she said she 1st   witnessed was the bombing of Pearl Harbor as It it was America’s first time to be attacked by an enemy and that was very frightening for her, she recalls.  Her brother was in the Navy at the time, and he had joined with one of his best friends and they were both stationed in Hawaii.  While her brother was on an R and R break, the Japanese dropped the bomb on Pearl Harbor.  His best friend was killed, and her brother felt very guilty and sad that he was not there and that was extremely difficult for him after that happened, he was very hurt by this, and Rose remembers how sad it was for her beloved brother.  

Aunt Rose also has survived Covid-19 and did not get it, though several of her family members did get it and sadly, at 103 years old she lost her beloved youngest daughter and her son-in-law to Covid-19, and this crushed her and the family too. We were all so very worried about how this would affect her health, and though she is heartbroken at the untimely loss of her daughter, she continues to go forward and as she says, “What can I do except remember her with all my love and do my best to live and love my family that is still here with me”. She is such a strong woman and through it all she still keeps her positive attitude albeit this really affecting her, as you can imagine.

Though having lived through some very hard times in life, one time I asked her what was one of her favorite days she said, “One of them was October of 2000”. Her son had been married for a long time and was in his 40’s, Aunt Rose thought that he just probably wouldn’t have any children. Until one day he did!  She went to the hospital shortly after the baby was born and held her in her arms and was so thrilled.

She also shared about her dreams as a young woman. After graduating high school, she wanted to study nursing, but her parents did not have the financial means to send her to college.  Instead, she put herself through beauty school by saving every penny she made to buy supplies and pay for the state board exams.  She never forgot her dream of wanting to be a nurse too, however, and when she found out that a local hospital was in desperate need of bilingual nurses, and that they were providing free training, she jumped at the chance…even though she was 51 years old!  She was not afraid to change careers and start a new one, because that is Aunt Rose, she is so driven and dedicated.  She is proud of the fact that on her last certification exam she scored 100 points over the requirement!  She worked as a nurse for over 14 years at the same place, General Hospital, (not the TV Soap Opera hospital 😉) until she retired form there at age 65. 

One might ask what does Aunt Rose do to stay so young? Aunt Rose believes that every single one of her senses is vital to her well-being, “it’s impossible to choose” the one that is most important to her now. To stay healthy, she recommends staying busy, eating right and not watching too much TV when she was young, she was always active and always on the move.  She says that when people stop being active it is when they start to deteriorate; it is important to have a plan for each day and to do meaningful things as much as possible.

Aunt Rose and Kristina 2020

On a normal day, at 105 years old, she wakes up between 7AM and 8AM and stays busy most of the day and still, lives in her home where she tends to her garden and even at 102, she was painting her own fence!  She used to go to meetings at the Senior Center at Grand Vista and Olympic Blvd up until just the last few recent years.  In 1982, she started the Senior Citizen club at this location and it grew to over 100 members and there are still a good number of participants that regularly get together all because of Aunt Rose.  When her granddaughter was younger, some days her granddaughter would come over after school and Aunt Rose would watch her, (she loved that) and they had great times together, playing and making things. Of course, now her granddaughter is all grown-up and they still love to spend time together along with her still living son and daughter and their offspring.  Some days there are doctors or dentist appointments or other errands, like banking.  Some days she would go to the mall to walk around, do some window shopping and engage in one of her favorite things, people watching! She still does her own hair and can do her own nails too and is always impeccably dressed!  

You may be wondering how it is that Aunt Rose is able trek around the city so freely, the answer is, she took the bus!  Yes, Los Angeles public transportation was her link to everywhere she wanted to go, never wanting to wait for anyone to take her places, and the family always offered she would politely decline and advise “I love taking the bus and going on my adventures!”.  “Don’t let not driving keep you home and sedentary” she would say to everyone, “Get out there and see the City and the World too” enjoy living!

Aunt Rose has seen the death of many of her friends and relatives.  The loss that affected her deeply was when her mother passed in 1976, .  she said she “fell apart” and grieved for a very long time.  Losing her daughter, was the next greatest loss of her life.

She is accepting of death as a natural part of life and has as the responsible woman that she is has put “all her affairs in order” including a living will and a health care proxy, of course. Aunt Rose is a shining example of living life as a Californian Centenarian and always ready to get out and see the wonderful City of Los Angeles, though no more bus for her, she finally relented and enjoys her close-knit family who are always there to spend quality time with my beautiful, kind, caring, loving, adventures seeking Aunt Rose

On October 8, 2022, we are having our yearly celebration of Aunt Rose’s birthday, this one is 105 and the theme is “Airline Attire” and so it shall be 😊. I am so blessed to have her as my great Aunt Rose, and as per the norm, my mom who is 84 years old, and adores her Nina Rose, will be coming in from Sacramento (we will go “Airline Attire “costume shopping next week here in LA) and we will excitedly and proudly celebrate her life and her beautiful self!


Love your great niece, Kristina Munoz  –

1 Comment

  1. ihatethis123 says:

    Denise, A lovely story about Aunt Rose. thanks for sharing

    Doug Reichert


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