At 102, Doris Woodring is fairly certain she is the oldest participant in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics this year. But since “eldest Olympian” is not an event, she is busy practicing her Scrabble and domino skills.
“Scrabble keeps my mind alert,” she says. “And Mexican Train Dominoes is a new event this year, so I am going to give that a shot, too.”
Sponsored by the Northern Virginia Senior Olympic Committee and co-sponsored by the Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia Parks and Recreation departments, the Olympics program takes place annually in September and is open to all residents ages 50 and older who live in a sponsoring jurisdiction. Seniors are offered the opportunity to participate in 40 different events each year.
This year’s Olympics will be the NVSO’s 30th anniversary.
It also will mark Woodring’s first foray as a senior Olympian. But she says she is no greenhorn when it comes to either Scrabble or dominoes, the two events in which she will be competing.
“I have been playing dominoes for at least 90 years,” she says with a wry smile. “I think I’m able to hold my own.”
Although Woodring will potentially face challengers literally half her age in the Olympic Scrabble event Sept. 24, she says she plans to be competitive.
“I have been practicing my ‘Q’ and ‘K’ words,” she said. “I look in the dictionary to find words like quads, quiver, kennel and kangaroo. The way to win is to make points by adding onto other letters already on the board.”
Born June 9, 1910 in Glasgow, Kan., as one of eight children, Woodring says being competitive came naturally to her. She went to school in a one-room schoolhouse and said her father purchased one of the first automobiles in her town in 1919.
“As a child, I remember catching frogs for fun and putting little diapers on them,” she said with a laugh.
In 1935, at the age of 25, she married the son of a local butcher and moved to Washington, D.C., where she attended the inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“I can’t tell you which one it was,” she says. “He had three, you know. But I remember he and his wife Eleanor passing right by me in their car on the way to whichever one it was.”
Woodring said she remembers air raid sirens going off in the District during World War II and having to pull down “blackout” curtains to keep indoor lights from being seen outside when the sirens went off.
The couple lived in D.C., Alexandria and Falls Church before having a home built in Annandale in 1967, where Woodring remained until 1995. She currently resides at Westminster Continuing Care Retirement Community at Lake Ridge in Occoquan. Her husband, Joe, died in 1990.
“He worked for [U.S. Representative] William Randolph Carpenter and later was an elevator operator in the [Robert C.] Weaver Federal Building,” she said.
Woodring, who has three daughters, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, said family always has been important to her.
“I have a daughter who lives in Delaware and I entered a Scrabble competition there with her,” she said. “It was great fun and together we beat a group from a local college.”
She said she is the oldest member of her family, the oldest surviving member of her high school class, the oldest member of the retirement community in which she lives, and the oldest resident there ever to maintain their own apartment.
“I guess I am just as old as dirt,” she said with a laugh. “I have been here so long that all my friends in Heaven must be thinking that I didn’t make it.”
Asked to what she attributes her health and longevity, she said she simply is blessed.
“Well, I also read every day. Nora Roberts is one of my favorite authors,” she admits.
“I also play games like dominoes and Scrabble,” she adds with a wink.