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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 1, 2010 9 years ago

Fountain of youth

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

If Dora Riverol were just your average 99-year-old, she wouldn’t stay up until midnight. She also wouldn’t be too busy to keep a pet because of her social and volunteering schedules, and she probably wouldn’t have bought a computer at age 90 and spend two hours a day e-mailing her family and friends.

Riverol is a social butterfly who looks after herself, does all of her own grocery shopping, cooks and bakes everything under the sun and volunteers for two shifts a week at Church of the Redeemer’s Episcopal Thrift House.

“I’ll tell you what I do,” Riverol says. “I have my supper around 5 o’clock, turn on the TV and listen to the news. I have to watch ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Jeopardy’ (and confesses she could win if someone got her on the show). Then, I shut down the TV and I go on my computer to play games until 10 — solitaire, free cell and tiger solitaire. The last two hours I go to e-mail and talk on the phone.”

Riverol, who will turn 100 on April 10, says people are shocked to see her sitting behind the desk at the thrift store, even though she’s the cashier.

“This means I can still count two-plus-two,” she says. “There is one girl who relieves me and says she never counts my bank because it’s always correct. Those things make me feel good.”

When asked what her secret is to living so long, Riverol says that if she knew, she’d be rich and write a book to let everyone know.

For now, she takes a single pill each day for high blood pressure and has always eaten whatever, whenever she pleased, but tends to stick to two meals a day — her favorite food is rice, beans and chicken — without snacking.

“I don’t believe all this mess they tell you about, ‘Don’t eat this,’ or ‘don’t eat that.’ Then, six months later, they tell you, ‘Oh yes, that’s good for you now.’”

Riverol was born in London and grew up in British Honduras (now Belize) and worked for the Belize government for 25 years in the department of public works and as secretary to the director. In September 1993, she was inducted into to the Belize National Sports Hall of Fame for her sublime tennis skills. Her record — winning her country’s ladies singles, ladies doubles and mixed doubles cups, each more than once, hasn’t been broken since.

She and her husband, Philip, moved to the United States nearly 60 years ago. In 1974, on the way to Sarasota, her husband died.

“I was in the middle of nowhere and didn’t know whether to stay or go back home,” Riverol said. “My friends said to come down.”

Riverol took a job at the Van Wezel for the next 25 years and worked in the mail room, answered the telephones and manned the box office.

“I decided at 90 years old I was going to buy a computer, which I knew nothing about,” Riverol said. “I didn’t want to sit at home doing nothing. I enjoy my computer. I play games, e-mail, write letters and keep accounts of purchases.”

She still shops, meets her friends for dinner and finds great bargains on clothing at the thrift shop.

“If I still have my faculties, I don’t mind living to 107,” she said. “I thank God in heaven for allowing me to see this age and be in good health. I thank my parents for bringing me up the right way and I thank the people of this church, who have been exceptionally good to me.

In honor of her 100th birthday, the church, along with Riverol’s family and friends, will host a party Saturday, April 10, at Church of the Redeemer.

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].

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